The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. The Church's tradition on this matter is that Mary did physically die. But Pope Pius XII left this point an open question.
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII spoke these words, which kindled Catholic hearts around the world:
We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."
"Having completed the course of her earthly life." This phrase displays the prudence and precision employed in the definition of dogma. There was no pronouncement on the exact nature of Our Lady's death, or even as to whether she died at all. The common consensus holds that the Mother of God did, in fact, experience physical death, but we must be careful here to state unequivocally that the death of the "Immaculate Conception" was an event as unique as the Lady herself:
For Mary's death was to be neither an expiatory death [like that of Christ on Calvary] nor a death of punishment [like that of human beings born with original sin]. Moreover, under the cross she had been a sharer in the sufferings of Christ's death.... Her death came in the form of a dissolution resulting from the supernatural power of divine love, as a consuming of the natural vital strength by the languishing of her love, or by the violence of an ecstasy of love which separated the soul from the body, or because by her love Mary prevailed upon God not to maintain her bodily life any longer.
Hence, Mary's death appears as a holocaust of love. The sacrifice, made under the cross in the greatest spiritual sorrow, was thereby outwardly completed in a sweet and loving manner as in a slumber of love." (Rev. M. J. Scheeben, Mariology, Vol. II.)
"A slumber of love." The ancient Church knew well that the death of the Mother of God was a singular event, and they referred to this "slumber of love" as her Dormition, her "falling asleep," a clear indication that the close of the Virgin's earthly life was peaceful, unaccompanied by any anxiety or pain. On earth, Mary lived for Jesus and for Him only. When her earthly race was run, Mary's burning desire to be reunited forever with her Son found its fulfillment. "Now, since it is certain that the Son died of love and that the Mother died of the death of the Son," wrote St. Francis de Sales (+1622), "we must not doubt that the Mother died of love."
Where did the Assumption take place?
There are two places that traditionally mark Mary’s Assumption both in Jerusalem and in Ephesus. From the Scriptures we do not learn about the end of Mary’s life or that of many of Christ’s apostles.
Today there is a Greek Orthodox Church near Gethsemane in which there is a tomb where it is claimed Mary was placed after she died. However there is a stronger tradition that Mary spent the last part of her life in Ephesus in Turkey and died and was assumed into heaven from there. Two centuries ago the German mystic and stigmatist, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, in visions which she received between 1818-1824, saw an image of Mary’s house on a hill near Ephesus. Sr. Anne Catherine Emmerich was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. The zeal of a French nun, Sr. Marie DeMandat-Grancey, resulted in the expedition that located the remains of the house in 1891, on Mt. Nightingale very near ancient Ephesus, exactly where Sr. Anne Catherine Emmerich said it was. (Fr. Eugene Poulin was also on the expedition but desires that posterity give the gratitude to Sr. Marie) The shape of the house and all other details exactly matched the description of Sr. Anne Catherine Emmerich, and it was the only stone house on the hill. Now that house on Mt. Nightingale very near ancient Ephesus is restored and venerated as the house where Mary came to spend the last years of her life to avoid the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. It is in the care of the Franciscans and each year receives one and a half million visitors. The first church ever dedicated to Our Lady was built in Ephesus in the second century and Christians had a principle in the early Church that they only built a church in someone’s honor if that person lived and died or was martyred there. When Jesus was dying on the cross he asked his close friend and disciple John to look after his mother (John 19:26-27), and St. John also spent time in Ephesus and is buried there. In 431 AD a big council of the Church was held in Ephesus which declared Mary to be the Mother of God. Naturally the council declaring Mary as Mother of God would not have taken place there if they did not believe Mary had been there. Those who visit the house of Mary say they feel the presence of Our Lady there very strongly. Many graces and healings are received there and you can see many crutches left there by people who were miraculously healed there. The house is also visited by many Muslims because Muslims also have a strong devotion to Our Lady. In it excerpts about Our Lady from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, are plainly seen. It is the only place in the world where Muslims and Christians pray together peacefully. That is what Our Lady as a mother and the New Eve would want, all peoples praying together peacefully. On July 26th 1967, Pope Paul VI visited the house; on November 30th 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass nearby, and in 1991 he called it “the material home of Mary.” (Subsequent to my preaching this homily Pope Benedict also celebrated Mass there on November 29th 2006). - The Assumption of Our Lady and her house in Ephesus
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich in her revelation mentions that she believed the actual tomb of the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary will one day eventually be discovered, not far from where she dwelled at Mt. Koressos (Ephesus), Turkey with St. John the Apostle.
In 1895 Pope Leo XIII removed the plenary indulgence for Mary’s tomb in
Jerusalem for all time. Pope Pius X granted a one time plenary indulgence
to a 1914 pilgrimage to Mary’s House. In 1951, Pope Pius XII declared
Mary’s House an official sanctuary for pilgrims. That same year he also granted permission for the celebration of the Votive Mass of the Assumption
at Mary’s House. Finally, Pope John XXIII granted a plenary indulgence
for Catholic pilgrims to Mary’s House for all time on August 18, 1961.
Three Vicars of Christ have also blessed Mary’s House with their presence.
Pope Paul VI came to pay his respects to the Virgin Mary at Ephesus on
July 26th 1967. He entered the shrine, prayed for a long time in front of the
altar, and he himself lit the sculpted lamp he had brought. In memory of Sr.
Marie de Mandat-Grancey, he gave the Superior of the Sisters of Charity a
gold chalice for their oratory inscribed with her name.
Pope John Paul II also came to Meryem Ana Evi on November 30, 1979
after an official visit to Ankara. He celebrated Holy Mass there before a
crowd of pilgrims. The open air altar was erected on this occasion. He
offered to the Capuchin Friars, who celebrate the Holy Eucharist every day
at the shrine, precious liturgical clothes and vessels. - Mary’s House & Sister Marie
The House of the Blessed Virgin, Mary (Selçuk, Turkey)
According to the meditations of Sister Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), compiled and published in 1852, the Blessed Virgin died and was buried not at Ephesus but three or four leagues south of the city or one and a half hours of carrying the litter of the Virgin Mary by two Apostles from Mary's house to her tomb. She is followed by those who accept her visions or meditations as private revelations.