ROME Pope Francis prayed for the unemployed, for families trying to make ends meet and for exploited children on Thursday at a popular wreath-laying ceremony at a statue of the Madonna near Rome's Spanish Steps.
The traditional event, which draws thousands of Romans and tourists, is held on the Roman Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception, a public holiday in the Italian capital.
In his prayer, Francis also prayed to the Virgin Mary for neglected children, the poor and the sick.
The statue, which rests atop a 14-meter-high ancient Roman column, has been there since 1857 and popes have been presided at the ceremony for decades. The wreath of flowers is later put around the statue by fire brigades.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)