Why It's Not the Right Time for a Dogma on Mary as Co-redemptrix

According to Member of International Pontifical Marian Academy

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ROME, OCT. 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Will the Church proclaim Mary the Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces, as some groups urge? ZENIT asked Father Stefano de Fiores, renowned Mariologist, about the possibility.



Father de Fiores is a member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy, which advises the Pope on all theological questions relating to the person of Mary. He said that to define Mary as "Co-redemptrix" does not mean to place her at the same saving level as Jesus, but to emphasize her cooperative role in salvation.

Q: There is a proposal to invoke Mary as Co-redemptrix. Would it be necessary to proclaim a new dogma?

Father de Fiores: From the conciliar and ecumenical point of view, it is certainly not opportune to proclaim this dogma at this time. The separated brethren, Protestants and Orthodox, reproach us for not consulting them in regard to the last dogmas on Mary. This is why I think that a dogma of this type would have to include their participation.

Let us first move toward union or toward a certain convergence among Christians; we will then examine if it is pertinent to proclaim Mary Co-redemptrix.

In fact, the title of Co-redemptrix has not been used since Pius XII, and the Pontiffs do not mention it precisely so as not to cause a misunderstanding with the Protestants. Indeed, co-redemption is not something new. Already, Irenaeus, the Church Father, referred to Mary as "causa salutis" [cause of our salvation] given her "fiat."

Q: Isn't it heretical to raise Mary to this category, placing her almost at the same saving level of Jesus?

Father de Fiores: It is necessary to clarify that it is not a question of placing her on the same plane as Jesus. The central character of the Redeemer's salvation is a given. The Virgin is seen as a collaborator in this redemption. Jesus Christ is not debated. It is not about a juxtaposition to the redemption work of Jesus Christ, but a participation, a dependency in salvation. This point must be very clear.

Q: Today, Catholicism is emphasizing Mary's salvific role. Why?

Father de Fiores: We must keep in mind that every year over 1,000 theological articles are published on Mary. The great concern of Mariologists is to avoid an isolated discourse on Mary. For this reason, Mariology is studied with an interdisciplinary approach, and articles and books are published that combine Mariology with other fields of theology, including soteriology.

Mary's role in salvation was already addressed by Vatican Council II. The historic-salvific-conciliar change of direction has spoken of Mary in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. Mary is not a separate chapter.

The Church Fathers themselves accentuated the aspect of Mary in salvation. Today, in addition to being centered in salvation, there is a tendency to see Christianity's involvement in history.

In this connection, Mary is the free and responsible woman who sings a hymn of freedom, the Magnificat, and the woman who keeps the poor in mind. She proclaims the freedom that Christ will bring in time and in history. Thus, Mary is the model and paradigm of man saved by Christ.

In a world like ours, fragmented in blocks, Mary is the one who accepts the other while maintaining her identity. Mary is in favor of man. Beyond affirming that she is the one who receives salvation, she is the one who brings it about.

Q: What are the consequences in the ecumenical way?

Father de Fiores: The Protestants -- I am thinking, for example, of Henrick Ott, Karl Barth's successor in Basle -- admit that they feel uncomfortable with the presentation of Mary as Mediatrix, formulated by Leo XIII.

However, they understand our affirmation that one goes to Jesus through Mary. They think that at times we present Mary as if she were outside Christ's mediation. The Vatican gives the solution: Mary's mediation is in Christ, not next to Christ. It is shown that not only does she save but that she makes salvation possible. This way she is acceptable to all.

Q: In his new letter on the rosary, the Pope has proposed a Marian spiritual revolution. What is the Pope's intention?

Father de Fiores: It is not a revolution but a rediscovery and an improvement in the form. With a few variations, the rosary had remained almost the same since 1569.

The Pope proposes some novelties with these five mysteries. He makes the prayer of the rosary more centered on Christ and more meditative, less mechanical and more reflective.

The new mysteries respond to a need that scholars, especially in Italy and France, had pointed out on several occasions. Between the last joyful mystery and the first sorrowful there was too great a leap. Significant episodes in the public life of Jesus were forgotten. In any case, it is obvious that the rosary is a synthesis and cannot contain everything.

Q: Is the rosary now more Christological and less Mariological in character?

Father de Fiores: John Paul II insists on putting Jesus Christ at the center. The Hail Mary is a Marian prayer but also Christological.

Jesus and his name are at the center. For this reason, the clause of the name of Jesus is repeated, which gives this prayer a more Christological and, hence, a more ecumenical character. As early as 1300, a community of Cistercian women religious of Treveri had added more than 50 clauses to Jesus' name.

Also significant is the emphasis the Pope gives to moments of silence. The rosary must not be prayed mechanically. In addition to emphasizing silence, the biblical enunciation of the mystery, and other novelties, the Pope has added a final ejaculation: a prayer for the grace of the mystery to be granted to the person reciting the rosary. It is a passing from prayer to life.

The rosary is the only prayer that brings the mystery celebrated liturgically to personal life. Moreover, it is extremely important for peace. The rosary, for example, had a decisive role in the life of the Church from the time of the Battle of Lepanto [Oct. 7, 1571], which marked the defeat of the Ottomans. Indeed, it was there that the title Virgin of the Rosary was born.

However, be careful: We must not regard the rosary as a weapon. It is not. It is a peaceful means to obtain peace. Given the violence and insufficiency of public means, only God can give peace. Only he can infuse in men's and women's hearts the serenity not to pursue violence.