John Paul II's recent apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" states, "To go through the scenes of the rosary with Mary is like going to the 'school" of Mary to read Christ, to penetrate his secrets, to understand his message." The rosary can even promote ecumenism, the Pope affirms.
That is a position shared by professor Stephan Tobler of the University of Tübingen, in Germany, a Reformed evangelical theologian, Vatican Radio reported.
"I must say that I read it in one go," Tobler said of the apostolic letter. "It is a letter of a spiritual and theological depth that I wasn't expecting -- a letter that breathes an evangelical dimension, which has very much surprised me."
"The letter says that it is necessary to relaunch the rosary as a Christological prayer," he added. "In fact, it does so, from the first to the last line."
When the document alludes to "the grace Mary gives us when we pray to her," it speaks of the grace that God gives us almost from Mary's hand, "but with an 'almost' as if to say she 'is and is not,'" the theologian said.
"Therefore, it is introduced in this way in the dynamic of the God-Trinity, which I see as close to the sensibility of the Reformers who appreciate the figure of Mary, but only if it does not detract from looking at Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Father," he said.
In this context, the Reformation communities can be encouraged by the Pope's words, the theologian said.
"I think that the evangelical churches can rediscover Mary as the image of the person completely open to God with her 'fiat' [let it be done], with her 'Do whatever he tells you," with her standing at the foot of the cross, with her silent presence among the disciples," professor Tobler said.
"In this letter, the Pope emphasizes that the rosary, more than a prayer of words, is a contemplation of the mystery," he continued. "Certainly today's sensibility and quest is primarily to rediscover a place where the heart rests, where the soul contemplates the mysteries of God and also the ways in which this is possible. We, in our traditions, must rediscover the ways that are equivalent, the analogy."
Tobler added a note of optimism about ecumenism: "I am convinced that if Catholics pray the rosary as proposed in this apostolic letter, and if evangelicals recognize and rediscover without prejudices this new way of conceiving the rosary, then it will be a favorable occasion. But we must work on it."