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 Tuesday, a day in which those who follow the religion commemorate their belief that Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb without original sin. The doctrine has been deemed unbiblical and rejected by evangelicals.
“Even she (Mary) was saved by Christ, but in an extraordinary way,” Jorge Bergoglio, the leader of Roman Catholicism known as “Pope Francis,” stated during his Angelus address over St. Peter’s Square, “because God wanted that the mother of His Son not be touched by the misery of sin from the moment of her conception.”
“And so, for the entire course of her earthly life, Mary was free from any stain of sin,” he claimed. “She was the [one] ‘full of grace’ as the angel called her.”
Bergoglio made his customary visit to the Piazza di Spagna in Rome to pray 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.
“With the first light of dawn, under the rain, Pope Francis placed a bouquet of roses at the base of the column where the statue of the Madonna is, and turned to her in prayer, so that she might lovingly watch over Rome and its inhabitants, entrusting to her all in the city and the world who are afflicted by illness and discouragement,” according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office.
He also visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed before the Maria Salus Popoli Romani, which being translated means “Mary, Health/Protection of the Roman People.”
The oil-based painting depicts Mary holding the Christ child and has been visited by Vatican leadership for centuries, being carried throughout Rome in 593 to pray for the end of the Black Plague. Gregory XVI prayed before it in seeking help in the midst of the cholera outbreak of 1837.
Bergoglio then observed mass in the basilica’s Chapel of Nativity before returning back to the Vatican.
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.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads in paragraph 491, “Through the centuries, the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854.”
Paragraph 493 states, “The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God ‘the All-Holy’ (Panagia) and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”
Bergoglio mirrored this doctrine on Tuesday, telling hearers that just as Mary was sinless, so shall they too be when their salvation is complete.
“What Mary had from the beginning, will be ours in the end,” he stated, “after we have passed through the purifying ‘bath’ of God’s grace.”
“The uncontaminated beauty of our mother is incomparable, but at the same time, it attracts us,” Bergoglio said. “Let us entrust ourselves to her and say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to grace once and for all.”
As previously reported, Catholics also believe that Mary did not die but, like Jesus, ascended into Heaven. The concept is not found in the Scriptures but was decreed by Pope Pius XII in 1950 as he wrote, “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate mother of God, the ever virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”
However, evangelicals feel that Catholics place an inordinate amount of focus on Mary and unbiblically ascribe attributes to her that belong to the Godhead alone, such as her all-seeing eye (omniscience), her ability to hear prayers from around the world (omnipresence), and her power to care for and protect those who entrust their very lives to her, even by intercession (omnipotence).
In Luke 1:47, Mary referred to the Almighty as her Savior, declaring, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior, for he hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
GotQuestions.org outlines, “The Bible nowhere describes Mary as anything but an ordinary human female whom God chose to be the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary was undoubtedly a godly woman (Luke 1:28). Mary was surely a wonderful wife and mother. Jesus definitely loved and cherished His mother (John 19:27).”
“But the Bible gives us no reason to believe that Mary was sinless. In fact, the Bible gives us every reason to believe that Jesus Christ is the only Person who was not ‘infected’ by sin and never committed a sin (see Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).”