There is nowhere on Earth that gives more attention to Roman Catholic holy days like Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin as does Vatican City. On 8 December, the Pope himself prays, preaches, and lays down a wreath of flowers at the statue of Mary in nearby Mignanelli Plaza. Additionally, the sitting Pope has offered expiatory prayers on this occasion in the same Plaza since the year 1953.
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Saint Peter’s Cathedral, of course, will hold special services to honour the memory of the Virgin Mary. And the Pope even sends out Immaculate Conception Day Tweets these days!
There was much debate over the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary for centuries, but the issue was settled so far as Catholics are concerned when Pope Pious IX declared in favour of the teaching and established 8 December as a holy day of obligation in 1854. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, by contrast, the date of the equivalent holy day is on 9 December.
In the Vatican and in surrounding areas of Rome and Italy, Immaculate Conception is well noted for its religious meaning but is also the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season. Many shops in Rome will be open on 8 December as throngs of people begin their Christmas shopping.