Pope's Address to Marian Congress

"The singular figure of the Mother of God must be developed and studied from diverse and complimentary perspectives"

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received in audience participants of the 23rd International Mariological Congress.

The theme of the event was "Mariology since Vatican Council II: reception, outcomes and prospects."

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Dear brothers and sisters,

With great joy I welcome all of you here to Castel Gandolfo as we near the conclusion of the 23rd International Mariological Marian Congress. It is quite appropriate that you are reflecting on the topic “The Mariology from Council Vatican II: Receipt, result and perspectives” since we will soon be remembering and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of that great assembly on October 11, 1962.

I cordially greet Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who is the president of the congress; Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council of Culture and of the Council for Coordination Among the Pontifical Academies, and I greet the president and academic officials of the Pontifical International Marian Academy, to whom I am grateful for the organization of this important event. I greet the bishops, priests, religious, presidents and representatives of Marian societies who are present, as well as the mariology scholars and, finally, all those who are participating in the sessions of the congress.

Blessed John XXIII wanted the Vatican Ecumenical Council II to open precisely on October 11, on the same day in which the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary “Theotokos” Mother of God in 431 (cf. AAS 54, 1962, 67-68). On this occasion he began his address with significant and programmatic words: “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia quod, singulari Divinae providentiae munere, optatissimus iam dies illuxit, quo, auspice Deipara Virgine, cuius materna dignitas hodie festo ritu recolitur, hic ad Beati Petri sepulchrum Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum sollemniter initium capit.” [“Mother Church rejoices because, through a special gift of divine Providence, there has now come the greatly desired day in which – under the protection of the Virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is celebrated with joy today – here at the tomb of St. Peter, there solemnly begins the second Vatican Ecumenical Council.”]

As you know, on October 11, to remember that extraordinary event, there will be the solemn opening of the Year of Faith, which I wished to announce with the motu proprio “Porta fidei,” in which, presenting Mary as an exemplary model of faith, I invoke her special protection and intercession in the Church’s journey, entrusting to her, blessed because she believed, this time of grace. Today too, dear brothers and sisters, the Church rejoices in the liturgical celebration of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the All Holy, dawn of our salvation.

The meaning of this Marian feast is explained to us by St. Andrew of Crete, who lived between the seventh and eighth centuries in his famous Homily for the Feast of the Nativity Mary in which the event is presented as a precious piece of the mosaic that is the divine plan for the salvation of humanity: “The mystery of the God who becomes man, the divinization of man assumed by the Word, represent the most supreme good that Christ has granted us, the revelation of the divine plan and the defeat of every presumptuous human self-sufficiency. God’s coming among men, as the brilliant light and clear and visible divine reality, is the great and marvelous divine gift bestowed upon us. Today’s celebration honors the birth of the Mother of God. But the true meaning and purpose of this event is the incarnation of the Word. In fact, Mary is born, nursed and raised to be the Mother of the King of the Ages, of God” (Discourse 1, PG 97, 806-807). This important and ancient witness brings us to the heart of the theme upon which you are reflecting and that Vatican Council II wanted to underscore in the title of chapter 8 of the dogmatic constitution on the Church “Lumen gentium”: “The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church.” This is the “nexus mysteriorum” of the intimate connection among the mysteries of the Christian faith that the Council indicated as the horizon for the understanding of the individual elements and the different statements of the patrimony of the Catholic faith.

In the Council, in which I took part as an expert when I was a young theologian, I had a chance to see the various ways of dealing with the questions about the figure and role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation. In the second session of the Council a large group of the fathers asked that Our Lady be treated in the constitution on the Church, while a group of similar size supported the necessity of a specific document that adequately shed light on the dignity, the privileges and the singular role of Mary in the redemption wrought by Christ. With the vote on October 23, 1963, it was decided to opt for the first proposal and the schema of the dogmatic constitution on the Church was enriched with the chapter on the Mother of God, in which the figure of Mary – reinterpreted and reproposed in the context of the Word of God, the texts of the patristic and liturgical traditions, as well as a broad theological and spiritual reflection – appears in all of its beauty and singularity, well inserted in the fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith. Mary, whose faith is the focus, is situated in the mystery of the love and communion of the Most Holy Trinity; her cooperation in the divine plan of salvation and in the unique mediation of Christ is clearly affirmed and properly highlighted, making it thereby a model and point of reference for the Church, who recognizes herself, her vocation and her mission in Mary. Popular piety, ever turned toward Mary, is in the end nourished by biblical and patristic references. Naturally, the conciliar text does not exhaust all the issues connected with the figure of the Mother of God, but it constitutes the essential hermeneutic horizon for every subsequent reflection of a theological or more purely spiritual or pastoral character. Moreover, it represents a precious point of balance that is always necessary between theological rationality and believing affectivity. The singular figure of the Mother of God must be developed and studied from diverse and complimentary perspectives: while the “via veritas” (way of truth) is always valid, we not forsake the “via pulchritudinis” (way of beauty) and the “via amoris” (way of love) to discover and contemplate still more profoundly Mary’s crystalline and solid faith, her love for God, her indestructible hope.

For this reason, in the apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini” I proposed that we follow the line traced by the Council (cf. 27). This is also an invitation that cordially address to you, dear friends and scholars. Offer your expert contribution of reflection and pastoral proposals, so that the upcoming Year of Faith might represent for all believers in Christ a true moment of grace in which the faith of Mary precedes us and accompanies us as a brightly burning lamp and as a model of the Christian fullness and maturity to which we can look with confidence and from which we can draw enthusiasm and joy to live our vocation as children of God, brothers of Christ and living members of his body that is the Church with ever greater commitment and consistency.

I entrust all of you and your research efforts to Mary’s maternal protection and I impart to you a special apostolic benediction. Thank you.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]