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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mary: To the Ends of the Earth

Madonna and Child at the Shrine

The Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae.

Puglia (Apulia) is a region in southeastern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south.

Its southern portion known as Salento, a peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy.

It neighbours Greece and Albania, across the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, respectively

In the southern part of the region, dialects of the Sicilian language called Tarantino and Salentino are spoken. In isolated pockets of the Southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people.

Marian devotion is very strong in the area.

The Pope gave a Homily on Saturday 14th June 2008 on the Square in the Front of the Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae in Santa Maria di Leuca, in Puglia.

The full Homily devoted to Mary and St Peter is here.

"My Visit in Apulia, ... begins as a Marian pilgrimage, on this extreme tip of Italy and Europe, at the Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae.

In this place, so important historically for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wanted the liturgy to be dedicated to her, Star of the Sea and Star of Hope.

"Ave, maris stella, / Dei Mater alma, / atque semper virgo, / felix caeli porta!".

The words of this ancient hymn are a greeting which in some way echoes that of the Angel at Nazareth.


All Marian titles, in fact, have as it were budded and blossomed from that first name with which the heavenly messenger addressed the Virgin: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk 1: 28). ...

"De finibus terrae": the name of this holy place is very beautiful and evocative because it re-echoes one of Jesus' last words to his disciples.

Jutting out between Europe and the Mediterranean, between the West and the East, it reminds us that the Church has no boundaries, she is universal. And geographical, cultural, ethnic, and even religious frontiers are an invitation to the Church to evangelize with a view to "communion in diversity".

The Church was born at Pentecost, she was born universal and her vocation is to speak all the world's languages. The Church exists, according to her original vocation and mission that were revealed to Abraham, to be a blessing to benefit all the peoples of the earth (cf. Gn 12: 1-3); to be, in the language of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1).

The Church in Apulia possesses a marked vocation to be a bridge between peoples and cultures. This land and this Shrine are effectively an "outpost" in this sense and I was very pleased to note, both in your Bishop's letter and also in his words today, how this sensitivity is alive among you and perceived positively, with a genuine Gospel spirit. ...

Lastly, my thoughts return to the Most Holy Virgin. From this Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae I would like to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to the various Marian Shrines in the Salento, true gems set in this peninsula, set like a bridge over the sea.

The Marian piety of the populations was formed under the wonderful influence of the Basilian devotion to the Theotokos, a devotion cultivated later by the sons of St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis, and expressed in the most beautiful churches and simple holy chapels that are cared for and preserved as signs of the rich religious and civil heritage of your people.

Let us therefore turn once again to you, Virgin Mary, who stood unwavering at the foot of your Son's Cross. You are a model of faith and hope in the power of truth and goodness.

With the words of the ancient hymn we invoke you: "Break the fetters of the oppressed, / give light to the blind, / cast all evil from us, / beseech our every good".

And, extending our gaze to the horizon where heaven and sea meet, we want to entrust to you the peoples who look out on the Mediterranean and those of the whole world, invoking development and peace for all:

"Grant us peace in our day, / watch over our way, / grant that we may see your Son, / in the fullness of joy in heaven".

Amen. "



The Basilica Sanctuary website is here (in Italian)