Pope Invites Faithful to Celebrate a Marian Anniversary

Plans to Preside Over Mass on Solemnity of Immaculate Conception

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II invited Catholics worldwide to join in the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of a key Marian dogma.

The Pope announced today from the window of his study that on Wednesday he will preside at a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, «where in 1854 my venerable predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.»

«In this way, we will honor the ‘Tota Pulchra’ [All Beautiful], she whom God chose as Mother of his Only-Begotten Son,» he added, when addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the midday Angelus, on a rainy day.

«Later, as every year, I will go to Piazza di Spagna for the traditional tribute to the Immaculate Conception,» the Pope said in a clear voice.

«I invite you all, dear Romans and pilgrims, to join me in this act of filial veneration of our heavenly Mother,» he concluded.

The origin of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is found in Christian writings of the first centuries. The feast was already celebrated in the West toward the 10th century. It was introduced in the universal calendar by Pope Sixtus IV in 1476.

After a long debate among theologians, Franciscan John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) coined the theological key to understand the dogma, stating that Mary was preserved from original sin in anticipation of the merits of Christ. Pope Pius IX defined the dogma with the bull «Ineffabilis Deus.»

In commemoration of this anniversary, last Aug. 14-15 John Paul II visited the Marian shrine of Lourdes in France. When the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 she announced that she was the «Immaculate Conception.»

In the context of the celebrations taking place in Rome, the 21st International Mariological Congress is being held through Wednesday at the Lateran University on the theme «Mary of Nazareth Welcomes the Son of God in History.» Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, is presiding at the congress on behalf of the Holy Father.

On Tuesday a concert will be held in honor of the Immaculate Conception in Paul VI Hall.

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