Rosary Church in Tsim Sha Tsui was built in 1905 with a generous donation from a Portuguese Catholic, Antonio Simplicio Gomes, M.D. His wish was to commemorate his parents by offering this church to Our Lady of Pompeii.
Pompeii was an ancient Roman town situated near Naples, Italy. With the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. the then 600-year-old town with its 20,000 inhabitants was buried under thick volcano ash and forgotten for about 1700 years. Upon excavation in 1748, two-thirds of the town emerged as a witness to the light and shadows of the Roman civilization.
The statue of Our Lady of Pompeii, also known as Queen of the Rosary, which graces the sanctuary is one meter wide and 1.2 meters high and had previously been kept in a monastery in Naples. It portrays Mary holding Baby Jesus in her right arm while He is giving a rosary to St. Dominic. Mary’s left hand, pointing downwards, is giving St. Catherine of Siena a rosary. A Sister of the monastery gave this picture to a young Italian lawyer, Bartolo Longo (1841-1926), who had visited Pompeii to promote the recitation of the rosary. Later Longo built a church to house the picture which attracted pilgrims from all over the world who said prayers before this picture. Many of them claimed to have witnessed miracles. Longo was beatified in 1980 and was called a “Man of Mary”. He held that popular piety speaks the language of theologians in the rosary.
The beginning of the rosary prayer, composed of 150 Angelic salutations and 15 Our Fathers, was accredited to St. Dominic (1170-1221) in the time of the Albigensian heresy. Thereafter, the rosary became inseparable from the devotion to Mary. Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) established 7th October as the Feast of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) dedicated the month of October to the Holy Rosary. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) proclaimed 2002 as the “Year of the Rosary”. In that year he also added the “Mysteries of Light” to form the fourth chaplet in addition to the traditional three chaplets. In that year, the icon of Our Lady of Pompeii was at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, by the explicit order of the Pope.
Rev. Louis Ha