Pope Celebrates Feast of Immaculate Conception

VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II observed the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, by placing a large bouquet of roses at the foot of a statue of the Virgin Mary, near the Spanish Steps in the center of Rome.

The Pope's visit to the statute drew a sizeable crowd of Italians who came to greet the Pontiff and add their own bouquets. The papal visit has been a tradition in Rome since the statue was erected in 1857, to commemorate the 1854 declaration in which Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Immaculate Conception to be a dogma of the faith. The Mayor of Rome, and numerous members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, participated in the short ceremony.

"Today we have thrown ourselves at the feet of the Virgin, with the utmost confidence, to ask her to help us cross the threshold of the Holy Door, with a renewed commitment," the Holy Father said. After the ceremony, he visited the basilica of St. Mary Major, where he spent some time in prayer before another Marian image, entitled, "Salus populi romani."

As he greeted pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for his Angelus message at noon, the Pope offered a few reflections on the Marian feast, "which is so dear to the Christian people." He said that Mary, having been preserved from all sin, is God's "masterpiece," a model for all Christians, "a creature who is completely beautiful, completely holy


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