Pope John Paul II arrived at the Shrine of the Holy Rosary in Pompeii this morning by helicopter to celebrate the end of the Year of the Rosary. When he first visited 24 years ago, the Pope said he prayed that he would "faithfully and humbly serve God as long as the Lord wanted". More than four million pilgrims visit the sanctuary at Pompeii, each year, which is dedicated to prayers for peace. The town is next to ruins of the ancient Roman city buried by ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is over 450 years old. On this day, the first Sunday of October in 1571, Don John of Austria beat back Turkish invaders at the battle of Lepanto. In thanksgiving for this event, which he attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, through the recitation of the Rosary, St Pius V instituted an annual feast under the title of Our Lady of Victory. His successor, Gregory XIII, changed the title to that of the Rosary, and granted its Office to all churches in which there was an altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1716, the army of the Emperor Charles VI, under Prince Eugene, again defeated attacking Turks near Belgrade, on the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, at a time when the members of the Society of the Holy Rosary were offering solemn prayers in Rome. Soon after, the Turks were forced to end the siege of Corcyra. Clement XI, in memory of this, extended the feast of the Most Holy Rosary to the Universal Church. Benedict XIV caused an account of all this to be inserted into the Roman Breviary, and Leo XIII added the Litany of Loreto the invocation: 'Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us'. In 1946 Pope Pius XII described the Rosary at "The Compendium of the whole Gospel":. Echoing this, Pope Pail VI brought out an Apostolic Letter: 'To Honour Mary'. Last year, Pope John Paul II declared October 2002- October 2003 as the Year of the Rosary. His new Apostolic Letter on the Rosary introduced the new Luminous Mysteries.
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