By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 September, 2014
According to the Vatican’s spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, the Pope spent time praying before Our Lady Salus Populi Romani – Protectress of the Roman people.
At the end of his time in prayer, the Pontiff left a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the famous image.
Pope Francis has made a habit of visiting St Mary Major at important times in his pontificate, especially before apostolic journeys.
Pope Francis’ visit to Albania takes place this Sunday, 21 September 2014.
This will be the second visit of a Pope to Albania, after Pope St John Paul II’s visit to the country in 1993.
Pope Francis trip will begin with a welcoming ceremony at Tirana’s ‘Mother Teresa’ international airport, where he will be greeted by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
From the airport the Pope will travel to the Presidential Palace where he will pay a courtesy visit to the President, Bujar Nishani. Afterwards he will address representatives of the civil authorities.
The high point of the Voyage will be the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Mother Teresa Square, followed by the recitation of the Angelus.
After Mass, the Holy Father will meet with the Bishops of Albania for lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature.
In the afternoon, Pope Francis will meet with leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations at the Catholic University Our Lady of Good Counsel.
The Pontiff will travel to the Cathedral of St Paul in the evening to celebrate Vespers with priests, religious sisters and brothers, seminarians, and members of various lay movements.
The final event on a busy schedule will be a meeting with children of the “Centro Betania,” along with representatives from other charitable institutions of Albania.
Although Pope Francis’ apostolic visit will be only the second by a reigning Pope, four other Roman Pontiffs have ties to the country: Pope St Eleutherius, Pope St Caius, and Pope John IV were all born in what is now Albania, while the ancestors of Pope Clement XI also hailed from the country.