On that historic day of February 11, 2013 when Pope Benedict announced his resignation, the Vatican gave public release to an official letter written by the Holy Father in which he made another historic contribution: this time in honor of his Mother.

In a Latin letter dated January 10, 2013, in which the Pope designates Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski (President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care) as his representative for the February 11 2013 World Day of the Sick Celebration, Benedict XVI invokes Mary as the “Mediatrix of all graces” (Mediatricis omnium gratiarum). In doing so, the Holy Father continues a consistent line of explicit papal teaching of this Marian doctrine which goes back for over two centuries.

It is significant that Pope Benedict’s reference to Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces would be released on the very day that he would shock the world with his historic resignation announcement. Although it was the Holy Father’s first use of the Mediatrix of all graces term, it was not his first time to teach the Mediatrix of all graces doctrine.

On May 11, 2007 at the canonization of the Brazilian Franciscan, Fr. Antonio de Sant’ana Galvao, O.F.M., Pope Benedict used a formulation regarding the “necessary” role of Mary’s mediating of all graces that reminds one great Marian authors such as St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, or St. Maximilian Kolbe: “There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady.” The Pontiff reiterates this Marian doctrine when he continues: “Let us give thanks to God the Father, to God the Son, to God the Holy Spirit from whom, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we receive all the blessings from heaven.” (Benedict XVI, Homily of Canonization, May 11, 2007, n. 5).

Some news commentary on Pope Benedict’s momentous Marian reference may have given the impression that the doctrine and title of Mediatrix of all graces had not been taught by any pope since the time before the Second Vatican Council. While it is true that the Marian doctrine had been officially and consistently taught by the popes from the late 18th century up to the time of Vatican II, it is also true that Blessed John Paul II repeatedly referred to the Mother of Jesus as the “Mediatrix of all graces” and has prolifically taught the doctrine of Our Lady’s “Maternal Mediation” throughout his extraordinary Marian pontificate.

Here are a few examples (among numerous others) of the popes before Vatican II who officially taught the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces:

Benedict XIV: Mary is like “a celestial stream through which the flow of all graces and gifts reach [us]” (1750)

Pius VII: “Dispensatrix of all graces” (1806)

Pius IX: “For God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation.” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).

Leo XIII: “It is right to say that nothing of all of the immense treasury of every grace which the Lord accumulate –nothing is imparted to us except through Mary…(Encyclical, Octobri mense, 1891).

Saint Pius X: “Fromthis union of will and suffering between Christ and Mary‘she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world’ and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Savior purchased for us by his death and by his blood (Ad Diem Illum, February 2, 1904).

Pius XII: He, the Son of God, gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because, associated as Mother and Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever, with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption (Radio Message of 13 May 1946 on the occasion of the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima).

This consistent papal teaching and precedent before the Council provides us with the proper context in which to interpret and understand the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on Mary’s role as Mediatrix:

Thus in a wholly singular way, she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and buring charity in the work of the savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace…

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. This, however, is so understood that it neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator (Lumen Gentium,61, 62).

Now let us briefly look at Blessed John Paul II’s seven usages of the Mediatrix of all graces title1:

1. Papal Address to the General Council, Superiors, and Directors of the Italian Institutes of St. Joseph, December 1, 1978:

We cannot conclude without addressing the Blessed Virgin, so loved and venerated by Murialdo, who had recourse to her as the Universal Mediatrix of all grace (Inseg I (1978) 250.

2. Papal exhortation to seminarians at the Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Brescia, September 27, 1982:

Entrust yourselves always with great confidence to Mary Immaculate, dispenser of every grace, to whom this fine seminary of yours is dedicated (ORE 755:8).

3. Angelus Address of 17 January 1988:

Another center of Marian devotion worthy of mention is the Church dedicated to Our Lady in Meadi, on the outskirts of Cairo, on the banks of the Nile…It is entrusted to the Coptic-Orthodox Christians, and many pilgrims continuously come to this sanctuary to entrust their intentions to the Mediatrix of all graces (Inseg XI/1 (1988) 119 (ORE 1023:5).

4. Papal homily for the Octave of Easter, 10 April 1988, in the Roman parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer:

In this Marian Year, your parish, which is placed under the patronage of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Redemptoris Mater, has an extra reason for renewing and strengthening its own devotion towards her, the Mediatrix of all graces, our Advocatewith her Son Jesus and the Help of Christians (ORE 1036:11).

5. Papal Address at the Shrine of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento on 2 July 1990:

With loving intuition from ancient times you have been able to grasp the mystery of Mary, as Mediatrix of all graces, because she is the Mother of the very Author of Grace, Jesus Christ (ORE 1148:2)..

6. Papal address to the General Chapter of the Mercedarian Sisters of Charity, June 28, 1996,

May she, true Ark of the New Covenant and Mediatrix of all graces, teach you to love him as she loved him (ORE 1451:5).

7. Papal Mass celebrated for Polish pilgrims, 25 August 2001:

When we celebrate the Holy Mass, the Mother of the Son of God is in our midst and introduces us to the mystery of His redemptive sacrifice. Thus, she is the mediatrix of all the grace flowing from this sacrifice to the Church and to all the faithful(ORE 1707:1

The Totus Tuus Pontiff repeatedly used the Mediatrix of all graces title and taught the doctrine, in echo of the popes of the preconcilar Papal Magisterium, and in proper interpretation and development of the teachings of Vatican II.

Why was Pope Benedict’s letter invoking the Mediatrix of all graces released on the same day of the announcement of his resignation? Perhaps only the Pope himself could answer this question. Nonetheless, Pope Benedict’s invocation does set the stage for his successor to continue this inspired Papal Tradition, and perhaps to bring it to its proper crowning development in a solemn definition. The Church movement for the fifth Marian Dogma of Mary’s universal mediation was initiated almost 100 years ago in 1915 by the great Belgian prelate, Cardinal Desire Mercier. The time seems ripe.

Every Marian Dogma has brought with it extraordinary graces for the Church and, thereby, for the entire world. May the dogmatic crowning of Mary, Mediatrix of all graces come soon, with its accompanying Marian roles of Co-redemptrix and Advocate), for the proper honor of the Mother, and for the historic graces of redemption and peace that the Church and the world will receive and—presently–so desperately need.

1  See the outstanding study regarding the Mediatrix of all graces doctrine in the Papal Magisterium of Blessed John Paul II by Msgr. Arthur Calkins, Mary, Mediatrix of all graces in the Papal Magisterium of Pope John Paul II, Mary at the Foot of the Cross, Vol. VII, Academy of the Immaculate, 2006.