PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pope Francis got out of his popemobile Sunday to bless an art installation, a grotto adorned with more than 30,000 knots, each representing a personal hardship or societal challenge.
The work was inspired by one of his favorite paintings, "Mary, Undoer of Knots." It shows Mary untangling a long ribbon — a symbol for smoothing life's difficulties.
The painting hangs in a church in Augsburg, Germany, where then-Rev. Jorge Mario Bergoglio saw it while studying in the mid-1980s. Deeply touched, the future pope brought copies back to Argentina, where a huge devotion grew and spread to neighboring Brazil and beyond. Its title can also be translated as "Mary, Untier of Knots."
Visitors to the grotto, installed outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, were invited to write down their own problems on ribbons. They were also encouraged to help others by loosening and removing a knot already in place.
Knots for the project have been gathered worldwide.
The installation, by artist Meg Saligman, was financed by a homeless advocacy group, Project Home.
"Even the most tangled knots are loosened by (God's) grace," Francis said during a 2013 prayer in St. Peter's Square, referring repeatedly to the "knots" encountered in everyday life.