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Archbishop A. M. Chinnappa - "Mary Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, & Advocate"

Updated: May 30, 2020

The following presentation was given at the Inside the Vatican Day of Dialog on the Feast of the Annunciation. –Asst. Ed.

Archbishop A. M. Chinnappa DD, SDB

Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, India

25. 03. 2010

Feast of Annunciation, Rome

1. Why this is precisely the appropriate time to solemnly declare the fifth Marian Dogma?


The development of the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Spiritual Mother of all humanity has its origins in Scripture and in the ancient Church. At Calvary with the words of the crucified Saviour to Mary and to John, “Woman, behold your Son… Behold your Mother” (Jn 19: 26-27), Jesus gives all humanity his mother to be, as the Second Vatican Council clearly teaches, “a mother to us in the order of grace” (Lumen Gentium, 61). The early Church saw the Mother of the Lord as the “New Eve”, the woman who uniquely cooperated with Jesus in the work of Salvation. By the second century, St. Ireneaus declared of Our Lady that through her obedience, she became “the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race” (Ad. Haer. III).

The co-redemptrix doctrine continues to develop with major contributions from the Byzantine monk, John the Geometer (10th Century) and St. Bernard of Clairvaux and his disciple Arnold of Chartres (12th Century) with the understanding of Mary “co-dying” and being “co-crucified” with Jesus, and the inseparability of Son and Mother in the work of Redemption. By the 14th century, the term “co-redemptrix” is being used to express the unique though entire secondary and subordinate participation of Mary with Jesus in his historic work of redemption. Even the great Tridentine theologian, Alphonsus Salmeron defended the Marian titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate back in 16th Century. The general role of “Spiritual Mother” and the specific titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate constitute authentically Catholic titles that are undeniable part of our rich Catholic Tradition.

The Second Vatican Council explicitly and clearly taught the doctrinal role of Marian Coredemption, Mediation, and Advocasy in Lumen Gentium, nembers 58, 61 and 62. Lumen Gentium 58 identifies her unique coredemptive role with Jesus at Calvary, stating that she “lovingly consented to the immolation of the victim born of her”, and Lumen Gentium 62 rightly recognizes the titles, “mediatrix” and “Advocate”, as “taken up into heaven, she did not lay aside her saving office”… “but by her manifold intercession continues to intercede for the gifts of eternal life” (LG62).

John Paul II was a true champion of Marian Coredemption, having used the title “co-redemptrix” on six occasions and having taught the doctrine of coredemption on numerous occasions. His homily in Ecuador in 1985 profoundly summarizes his teaching when he states that Mary was “crucified spiritually with her crucified son” and that “her role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her son” (Guayaquil, Jan 31, 1985). Pope Benedict has likewise taught the Coredemption doctrine, particularly in his World Day of the Sick Address of 2008 and in other addresses, where he unequivocally states Mary’s unique sharing in Christ’s redemptive suffering.

2. Why do I believe now is the right time to have a papal definition of this Marian truths?

First of all, I see a Papal definition as a great aid to ecumenism. A Papal definition will make clear once for all that Catholics do not adore Mary, but venerate in light of her unique cooperation with the Lord. This will greatly clarify the ecumenical dialogue regarding her subordinate but exalted role with Jesus, once it is stated by the Church’s highest authority, the Vicar of Christ.

Secondly, the number of petitions that has been sent to the Holy See over the over 90 year history of this Church call for the fifth Marian dogma has totaled well over 800 Cardinals and Bishops petition since the time of the originator of the petition, the late Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, and over 7 million petitions from the faithful ranging from 170 countries. This manifestation of the sensus fidelium is reminiscent of the many petitions warmly accepted by Bl. Pius IX and Pius XII for the respective Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.

Thirdly, and quite simply, the world today is in desperate need of a Mother! This Papal definition, with a new and a profound acknowledgement of Our Lady’s maternal roles, will allow for a new and extraordinary intercession on her behalf for the many many troubles facing the Church and the world at this time. We must be humble in acknowledging that we cannot solve the many problems facing humanity today without the assistance of our heavenly Mother, the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate! The time, therefore, is now for the fifth Marian Dogma.

3. Indian Church Context

This will be fitting for Indian context and more people will come to know Christ through Mary and they will live like her proclaiming the Gospel values in their situations. So here I would like to present the historical background of India.

India is a part of Asia. Asia consists of India, China Tibet and Japan and other islands in this part. The main four lands are influenced mutually and India has influenced other nations with its religions and philosophies and that is why it is known for its religiosity and family values. The whole world is now looking for inspiration from this great country. India is known for many religions. In all these religions we see the traces of mother worship or devotion to Sakti. This is explicit in its social setup also.

The family is the most fundamental social institution and is an integral part of the Hindu society.

Hindu tradition has generally respected womanhood. The husband and the wife constituted an indivisible unit in society. Women played an important role in religious life too. A man could not become a spiritual whole unless he was accompanied by his wife. Such was the importance that Hindu religion gives to a woman. This woman through her marriage becomes mother and as a mother she plays a vital role in the personal social and religious life of the children that she brings forth to the world. In any family where the role of mother is lacking that family is not much valued in the society. The Mother is the one who establishes relationships among the people. She is a teacher, life giver, and facilitator of relationship and one who imparts all types of knowledge.

What we have stated above is because of our earlier history of this land and its Mother cult that they had in their religious practices. Hereby I would like to give a short history of this cult in Hinduism and how the Christian missionaries have taken this and try to inculturate it in Christianity without going against the already existing dogmas of the Church.

4. Mother-cult in Hinduism:

The mother Goddess in Hinduism is seen as one with many forms combining both the fertility and nurturing image as well as a dynamic virgin warrior against evil. In the Vedic texts Rig, Yajur, Sama Vedas (approximately 7th cent. BC), though not directly the mention of Goddess is there, in the Epic Mahabarata Durga Devi is mentioned in Arjuna’s hymn. Yudishtra invokes her as the Mahisasura Mardini with 4 arms and 4 faces holding a noose, bow and arrow and a disc. In Ramayana, before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama wanted the blessings of Devi Durga. He came to know that the Goddess would be pleased only if she is worshipped with one hundred ‘Neel Kamal’ or blue lotuses. Rama, after traveling the whole world, could gather only ninety nine of them. He finally decided to offer one of his eyes, which resembled blue lotuses. Durga, being pleased with the devotion of Rama, appeared before him and blessed him.

In the Puranas she now evolved into two forms:

1. Mahisasura Mardini – the virgin warrior

2. Uma / Sakti / Paarvati / Hemavati -the fertile – the fertile nurturing forms of the goddess – the devoted wife of Shiva.

In Markandaya Purana, in Vamana Purana, in Devi Dhagwat Purana, in Siva Purana, in Skanda Purana, in Varaha Purana and in Chandi Mahatyama we find details of mother Goddess.

This cult in different forms disappears by the 11th century AD absorbed by the growing worship of Sakti- as one deity. As Kali she saved the world from the giant demon Raktabija. She later became Gauri – the radiant mother. We call the earth -the Mother earth. In India, all the rivers are named after women based on the mother cult.

In the state of TamilNadu great importance is given to Mother deity – cult. That is why proverbs and sayings speak of the mother as the first known god before one’s father, one’s teacher or god himself. The rain is worshiped as goddess Maari. The medicinal neem tree is worshiped as Amman. Lakshmi is worshiped as goddess of wealth. Sarasvathi is worshiped as goddess of education (knowledge). Paarvathi is worshiped as goddess of bravery.

One of the famous Tamil epics- Silappathikaram speaks of kannagi the heroin who was known for her purity and chastity. In Kodungalur she is depicted as Bhagavati Amman later and given a terrifying look. Periyapuranam shows that Karaikkal Ammaiyar after her husband left her took the form of a Satan but she is venerated as a holy person. But mother Mary is depicted as an affectionate mother with all divinely qualities. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi, a Jesuit poet in one of his minor literature works calls her as virgin Mother Goddess comparing her to virgin conch-shell in which rain drops turn into pearl symbolizing the virgin mother Mary conceiving through the power of the Holy Spirit and without the bodily human union. In Saivism literature Thirumanthiram goddess Paarvathi is said to be the mother, daughter and consort of Shiva. Fr. Beschi in his literature stated above, adds these aspects of mother, daughter to Mother Mary.

The Catholic Church has upheld the devotion to Mother Mary as she herself said “henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is Mighty has done great things for me (Luke 1:48b-49a). Mary the mother of Jesus together with other women and the Apostles was in the upper room to pray (Acts of the Apostles 1:13- 14). And from that time when Mary accepted the plan of God to be the mother of Jesus till this day the virgin mother actively involved in the redemptive work of her Son as co-redeemer, as a mediator and as an advocate. Our blessed mother Mary is venerated in India with all devotion. In order to state the devotion to Mother Mary, hereby the ‘Mother Cult’ in Hinduism (India) is given as the background.

5. Mother-cult in Christianity (In the State of Tamilnadu – India)

Mother Mary is known as Thiru Kalyana Matha -Mary -Mother of prosperity; Selvanayagi Matha – wealthy heroic mother and so on .Thus Mother cult has strong roots in India from time immemorial and our Christian Missionaries spread the faith in Jesus with the background of the Mother – cult. Tamil Christian literary works have been written with the mother-cult sentiments. Shrines and Churches have been built in honour of Mother Mary. Fr. Beschi built a shrine of our Mother of Refugee in Elakkurichi, 12 kilometers from Thanjavur, because of the persecution of Christians at that period of time. In Konankuppam Periya Nayagi Matha (Great Heroic Mother) Shrine was established. In Palayamkottai diocese at Kamanayakkanpatti Shrine of our Mother and Queen was established. Our Lady of Lourdes’ churches are found in many places of TamilNadu. Vailankanni and Poondi are some specific places of the Mother-cult. Fr. Beschi well known as Veeramamunivar in Tamil world says the following about the motherhood of the Virgin Mother: