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The Opening of the National Shrine's Jubilee Year

Basilica of the National Shrine’s Year of Jubilee
2008 - 2009

In 1847, at the petition of the bishops of the United States, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary patroness of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception.  In 1913, Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, asked for and received the approval of Pope Pius X to construct a shrine in honor of Mary Immaculate.

With Maginnis and Walsh of Boston chosen as the architects, James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore and senior churchman in the United States, laid the cornerstone on September 23, 1920.

The exterior of the Crypt level was completed in 1931.  With the death of Bishop Shahan in 1932 and the years of the Great Depression and World War II however, further construction came to a halt.  During the Marian Year 1953-1954, celebrating the centennial of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the American bishops renewed the effort to complete the National Shrine.  With the enthusiastic support of Catholics from across the nation, the superstructure began to rise in 1955.  Four years later, thousands gathered in the Upper Church on November 20, 1959 as Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, solemnly blessed and dedicated the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

On October 12, 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated the National Shrine to the status of a minor  basilica, thereby acknowledging its historical importance, dignity and significance as a center of worship and devotion. Included among the privileges of a minor basilica is that of a plenary indulgence (remission of temporal punishment due to sin) to those who participate in the celebration of Mass at the Shrine and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father on the following designated days of the liturgical year: November 20, the anniversary of the day of dedication; December 8, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast day; June 29, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul; and October 12, the anniversary of the granting of the title of basilica.

On November 16, 2008, the Basilica of the National Shrine solemnly opens its Year of Jubilee (2008-2009), celebrating 50 years since the completion of the Great Upper Church and the dedication of the Basilica of the National Shrine.

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