Prayer Intention: For all world leaders and for all heads of international organizations
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The United States has long been considered the great melting pot, where people from many diverse lands have come to make their home. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is proud to reflect this rich heritage of America. The National Shrine reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States and the unity and universality of the Catholic Church.
Built by generations of faithful American Catholics to honour the patroness of our nation—the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception — the National Shrine is affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church.
Among the nationalities and ethnicities represented throughout the Basilica are African, Austrian, Chinese, Cuban, Czech, Filipino, French, German, Guamanian, Hungarian, Indian, Irish, Italian, Korean, Latin American, Lebanese, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian, and Vietnamese. Religious communities from around the world are also represented, including the Augustinians, Carmelites, Claretians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Montfort Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Redemptorists, Salesians, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Providence, and Vincentians.
The shrine is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and in North America, and one of the largest in the world. The basilica is also the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C. Its construction began on September 23, 1920, and was completed on December 8, 2017. The shrine has merited several papal visits, namely the following:
Pope John Paul II raised the National Shrine to the status of Minor Basilica on October 12, 1990.
Pope Benedict XVI bestowed a Golden Rose on April 16, 2008.
Pope Francis canonized Saint Junípero Serra, O.F.M., on September 23, 2015.
In 1792 the United State’s first Catholic Bishop, consecrated the newly created United States under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the title of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. In 1846 the Bishops chose to name Mary, under the title VIRGIN MARY, CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN, as the principal patroness of the United States of America.
What is interesting is that the American Bishops chose this title of Mary as the patroness of the United States, requesting special permission from the Holy Father to do so, before the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary became infallible dogma for the universal Church. In fact, this request of the U.S. bishops to the Holy See to promote or claim this title of Our Lady may have been a significant contributing factor to the later declaration of the dogma.
On Dec. 8, 1854, eight years after the American bishops chose Mary Immaculate as their patroness, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be an article of faith in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus. Even more interestingly, the flagship of Christopher Columbus’ expedition to the New World, the Santa Maria, had a full name of Santa Maria de la Inmaculada Concepcion (Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception). The other ships, the Niña (little girl) and the Pinta (painted one) foreshadows Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first Marian apparition in the New World which would occur two centuries later.
The United States of America has undoubtedly been placed into the hands and heart of Mary Immaculate from its very foundation.