Next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the solemn proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the U.S. Church decided to mark the beginning of the celebrations at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, presided at the inaugural liturgy for the Marian Year. The basilica’s rector, Msgr. Michael J. Bransfield, read a letter from Pope John Paul II in which he gave his apostolic blessing and granted a Marian Year indulgence.
The Pope said he hopes “all the faithful would be inspired anew by [Mary’s] example and assisted by her prayers as they strive … to work for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom of truth, justice and peace.” In closing, the Pope commended to Mary Immaculate, patroness of the United States, the life and mission of the Church in America.
The plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who visit the basilica between Dec. 8, 2003 and Dec. 8, 2004 on pilgrimage or for a liturgy or other pious devotion, and who recite the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed.
An indulgence may be obtained once each day, under the customary conditions, which are: to the extent of one’s awareness, all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent; confession within several days of seeking the indulgence; reception of the Eucharist; and prayer for the intentions of the Pope.
The basilica is the patronal church of the U.S. The U.S. bishops collectively placed the nation under the care of Mary Immaculate in 1846. Pope Pius IX ratified their action shortly after and, on Dec. 8, 1854, solemnly defined and proclaimed the dogma, which holds that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, St. Ann.