ROME — In one of the feasts and celebrations marked on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar leading up to Christmas, Catholics around the world observed the Feast of Immaculate Conception on Friday, a day in which those who follow the religion commemorate their belief that Mary was conceived in her mother Anne’s womb without original sin.
Jorge Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis, delivered an Angelus address, during which he claimed that the angel Gabriel’s reference to Mary as being “full of grace” meant that there was no sin in her. Most Bible translations use the phrase “highly favored,” while a few use “full of grace.”
Through this wording, Gabriel “reveals the new name which God has given her and which befits her more than the one given by her parents,” Bergoglio asserted, according to a report by Vatican Radio.
He said that being “full of grace” meant that “Mary [was] full of the presence of God.”
“And if she is entirely pervaded by God, there is no place in her for sin,” Bergoglio claimed. “This is extraordinary, because unfortunately the whole world is contaminated by evil.”
“She is the only ‘always green oasis’ of humanity, the only uncontaminated one, created immaculate so that she could welcome fully, with her ‘yes,’ God who was coming into the world,” he continued, echoing the 163-year-old doctrine.
An article penned by Dave Armstrong in April for the National Catholic Register entitled “Scripture, Through an Angel, Reveals That Mary Was Sinless” outlines that “Catholics believe that God gave [Mary] the grace at her conception so as to avoid the original sin which she inevitably would have inherited, being human, but for God’s preventive grace, which saved her from falling into the pit of sin by avoidance rather than rescue after she had fallen in.”
And because Mary had no sin, she did not age by it, Bergoglio claimed. As previously reported, Roman Catholics also believe that Mary did not die, but was assumed into Heaven, both body and soul. The “Feast of Assumption” is observed every August by adherents to the religion.
Bergoglio later visited Rome’s Piazza de Spagna, where he presented a prayer to Mary before a sculpture that was commissioned in 1857 by Pius IX. The figure, which rests atop the lofty Column of Immaculate Conception, was created by Giuseppe Obici, and shows Mary stomping the head of a serpent.
“Immaculate Mother, for the fifth time I come to your feet as bishop of Rome to pay you homage on behalf of all the inhabitants of this city,” Bergoglio prayed. “We want to thank you for the constant care with which you accompany us on our journey. … Thank you, because as soon as we turn our thoughts or a fleeting glance towards you, or recite a quick Hail Mary, we feel your maternal presence, tender and strong.”
He referenced Alphonse Ratisbonne, who, according to Catholic legend, saw a vision of Mary in 1842 and converted from atheism. Bergoglio visited the Church of St. Andrew on Friday, where Mary is stated to have appeared to Ratisbonne.
“You revealed yourself to him as a mother of grace and mercy. Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation, may fix our gaze on your open hands, hands that allow the Lord’s graces to fall upon the earth,” Bergoglio stated.
“[L]et us place our hand in yours and allow ourselves to be led back to Jesus, our Brother and Savior, and to our Heavenly Father, who never tires of waiting for us and forgiving us when we return to Him,” he concluded. “Thank you, mother, for always listening to us! Bless the Church that is in Rome. Bless this city and the whole world. Amen.”
As previously reported, the concept of the immaculate conception was declared by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, who issued a proclamation ex cathedra claiming that it had been revealed to him by God that Mary was conceived without sin.
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the blessed virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful,” he said.
While many Catholics observe the feast day by attending mass, evangelicals believe that the doctrine is unbiblical and takes the focus off Christ.
“To suggest that Mary was conceived without sin because she was greeted as a ‘favored one’ is absurd and nonsensical,” Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries told Christian News Network.
“As in many religious traditions that deny or oppose God’s word, the immaculate conception of Mary denies the sinfulness of all humanity,” he stated. “It all begins with Adam who was our federal head and represented all of humanity. When he sinned, ‘sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned’ (Rom. 5:12). His one sin resulted in condemnation to all men, including Mary (Rom. 5:18). Through his one act of disobedience, his descendants, including Mary, were made sinners (Rom. 5:19).”
Gendron noted that the doctrine of “immaculate conception” has “spawned other heresies about Mary” as well, and has distorted the true Mary of the Scriptures.
“In 1950, the pope declared Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven because she lived a sinless life,” he outlined. “The Catechism teaches that Mary was sinless and continues to bring us the gifts of salvation. It teaches that she was the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race and she will deliver souls from death. She is said to be co-mediator with Jesus in Heaven, which makes her an another way to approach God. Catholics refer to her as the Mother of God and she bestows aid and comfort to the people of the world.”
But “Mary is no more the mother of God than Joseph is the father of Jesus,” Gendron said.
He contrasted the Mary of the Roman Catholic religion with the one mentioned at times in the New Testament.
“Scripture has very little to say about Mary. When she appears with the other believers on the day of Pentecost, she’s not an object of worship or even a leader in the early Church,” Gendron noted. “There are no occasions of anyone ever praying to her, honoring her or venerating her. She is never mentioned in any presentation of the gospel.”
“Jesus Christ alone is our Redeemer, Deliverer, Mediator and Advocate. He alone is to be worshiped, adored, honored and praised now and throughout all eternity!” he declared.
Being a former Roman Catholic of 30 years, Gendron expressed his desire that Catholics would examine every papal doctrine in light of Scripture and repent of what he called Mariolatry, or placing Mary on too high a pedestal, making an idol of her.
“God’s word exposes the many errors of the Catholic religion,” he said. “As the federal head and representative of all humans, Adam’s act of sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of his sin was judicially made the penalty for all. Paul explains it this way: When Adam sinned, ‘sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned’ (Rom. 5:12). His one sin resulted in condemnation to all men, including Mary (Rom. 5:18). Through his one act of disobedience, his descendants, including Mary, were made sinners (Rom. 5:19).”