Immaculate Conception

19th century

The Catholic dogma that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was free from original sin from the moment of her conception and preserved from all sin throughout her earthly life was declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854. However, for centuries Catholics had believed in Mary’s exceptional holiness as a divine favor in anticipation of her role in salvation; by the eighth century, the Eastern church believed her holiness was flawless and immense, and this belief gradually spread throughout the Western church. The feast is fixed nine months before the feast marking Mary’s birthday on Sept. 8. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the patron of the United States and 10 other nations in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

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