The feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, was instituted by Pope Pius VII. By order of Napoleon, the Pope was arrested on 5 July 1808, and imprisoned at Savona, Italy and Fontainebleau, France. In January 1814, after the Battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on 17 March, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumphal march with the pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and distress, to the Blessed Virgin. He visited many of her sanctuaries on the way, crowning her images, and entered Rome on 24 May 1814 to enthusiastic crowds. To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the Church during his exile he extended the feast of the Seven Dolours of Mary to the universal Church on 18 September 1814.
When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples. Pius VII fled to Savona on 22 March 1815, where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy on 10 May 1815. Following the Congress of Vienna and Battle of Waterloo, he returned to Rome on 7 July 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady, he instituted the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians for the Papal States on 15 September 1815; it was celebrated on 24 May, the anniversary of his first return. The dioceses in the Tuscany region adopted it on 12 February 1816, and it spread over nearly the entire Latin Church.
They hymns of the Office were composed by Brandimarte. It is the patronal feast of Australasia, a double of the first class with an octave, and is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since Saint John Bosco dedicated the mother church of his congregation at Turin to Our Lady, Help of Christians. The Salesian Fathers have carried the devotion to their numerous establishments, and prayers for her intervention are credited with the miraculous cure of Blessed Artemide Zatti.
- Andorran security forces
- Austrialian military chaplains
- New York
- New Zealand
- Townsville, Australia, diocese of