A feast dedicated to Mary’s conception first appeared in the 7th century and by the 12th century it was firmly established in England. In the 13th century, great thinkers such as St. Bernard and St. Thomas Aquinas debated whether Mary could have been born without original sin if, as St. Paul says, all persons are born in sin (Romans 5.12). By the 19th century, the theological debate was resolved and in 1854 Pius IX defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of faith. In 1846, the Catholic Church of the United States declared this to be its patronal feast.

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