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Pope celebrates Feast of Immaculate Conception

Pope John Paul II paid homage to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary yesterday, which was observed as a major feast day in the Catholic Church and a holiday in Italy.

The Holy Father led the Angelus for a crowd of several thousand pilgrims.

"Mary is our unshakeable hope in the difficult struggle against sin and its consequences," the Pope said.

Later in the day the Pope travelled across Rome to the Spanish steps, for the traditional laying of a wreath at a statue there dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. The statue was commissioned by Pope Pius IX in 1856, in celebration after the dogmatic proclamation of the Immaculate Conception.

The Pope traveled across the city in his popemobile, which has been fitted out with clear plastic windows that provide protection from the cold but clear vision of wellwishers lining the streets. A number of elderly and handicapped people had been brought to the footpath near the Spanish steps, with blankets over the knees, and the Pope blessed them as he passed.

Arriving at the statue, the Pope prayed aloud for "the precious gift of peace." He appealed to the Virgin Mary to "disperse the darknewss of sorrow and solitude, of hadred and vengeance; open the spirits and souls of all people to hope and to pardon."

Honoring Virgin Mary, Pope joins in celebrating feast (Catholic World News 8/12/03)

Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Women for Faith and Family)

9 Dec 2003