Hundreds of thousands in Chile will visit the Lo Vasquez Shrine this coming December 8 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, taking part in one of the most well-attended pilgrimages in the country. Our Immaculate Lady of Lo Vasquez, known in Spanish as “Nuestra Se√±ora Purísima,” is a devotion that dates back to 1850 in Valparaiso, Chile. On Dec. 7 and 8 the shrine draws almost 1 million faithful to central Chile. People come from different parts of the country in a pilgrimage that will conclude Chile’s month of Mary.  This year the pilgrimage will have a special focus: the opening of the Holy Door of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The special year, declared by Pope Francis, is intended to encourage acts of faith, charity and brotherly communion. Specially designated Holy Doors at churches around the world are connected to plenary indulgences for pilgrims during the church year. Already since Sunday Nov. 29, the Lo Vasquez Shrine has begun to prepare for Feast of the Immaculate Virgin with the start of the novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception recognizes that God chose the Virgin Mary to be conceived without sin. It was proclaimed on Dec. 8, 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull “Ineffabilis Deus,” formalizing the long-held Catholic belief. This year’s pilgrimage events are based on the theme “Mother of Life, Mother of Mercy.” On Nov. 29 the pilgrimage’s traditional religious dance festival took place. In this festival, the faithful renew their promises to the Mother of God alongside dancers and musicians.  The chaplain at the Shrine of the Immaculate Virgin of Lo Vasquez, Father Marcelino Toro, explained the event to CNA.  He said the pilgrimage is “primarily an encounter with someone you love.” “And from that encounter one feels complete contentment, happy to have done something good. This full encounter is with Mary, the Mother who shows us Jesus as the only way, truth and life,” Fr. Toro added. The priest discussed the renewal encouraged by the Year of Mercy, saying “it has to do with the humble, little heart that’s in need. Consequently, the beginning of the Year of Mercy starts out with this feast of Mary, who lived out mercy in the humility of her heart.” One of the main activities of this festival is the Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Valparaiso, Gonzalo Duarte. He will open the Holy Door of the Shrine of the Immaculate Virgin and lead the solemn procession with the statue of the Virgin. The pilgrims who come to the shrine will also be able to go to confession all day long and attend one of many Masses which will start on the hour from midnight to 7 p.m. on Dec. 8.