Telesphore P. Cardinal Toppo, former president of India’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops, granted the following interview with Zenit News Service concerning the drive for the new solemn definition of a fifth Marian dogma that would define Mary’s spiritual maternity under its three essential aspects—Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate. Contrary to the opinions of some who believe that such a solemn definition would adversely affect ecumenical relations, Cardinal Toppo believes that such a definition would enhance the ecumenical mission of the Church. “I have no doubt that non-Catholic Christians participating in ecumenical dialogue, either will find this position acceptable or at least will have no valid or convincing argument against it.”
Proclaiming Mary as the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity would benefit ecumenical and interreligious dialogue because it would help non-Catholics to understand many things about the Mother of God, says Cardinal Telesphore Toppo.
The archbishop of Ranchi and former president of the episcopal conference of India is one of the five cardinal co-sponsors of the 2005 International Symposium on Marian Co-redemption, held in Fatima, who are asking Benedict XVI to declare a fifth Marian dogma.
The petition urges the Pope to proclaim Mary “the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, the Co-redemptrix with Jesus the Redeemer, Mediatrix of all graces with Jesus the one Mediator, and Advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race.”
In this interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Toppo discusses his views in favor of the proposed dogma.
Previously this year, you and four other cardinals sent out a letter to the world’s cardinals and bishops, inviting them to join in your petition for a new dogma of the spiritual motherhood of Mary. How did they respond?
Cardinal Toppo: Although the majority of cardinals and bishops sent their letters of support for the fifth Marian dogma directly to the Holy Father, we also received numerous copies of enthusiastic letters of support for this dogma from cardinals and bishops from all five continents. Many of the letters spoke of the need for the dogma and Our Lady’s greatest possible intercession for the troubled situation for the world today, including the rampant war and terrorism, religious persecution, moral depravity, family breakdown and even natural disasters.
The general consensus of the letters from my brother cardinals and bishops is that now is the time for this fifth Marian dogma as a remedy for the unique difficulties facing the world. As she did in the Upper Room and in the early Church, Our Lady can intercede like no one else for a new release of the Holy Spirit to bring new grace, peace and protection for the Church and for the world.
Have you spoken directly to Benedict XVI regarding the petition for the fifth Marian dogma?
Cardinal Toppo: On June 3, 2006, on the eve of Pentecost, I was privileged to have a private audience with His Holiness, during which I presented the Holy Father the “acta” of theological presentations from the 2005 Fatima symposium on Mary as the Co-redemptrix. I also presented him with the Latin “votum”—or petition—for the solemn papal definition of Our Lady as the Spiritual Mother of all peoples, Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate, which already at that time was signed by a significant number of cardinals, archbishops and bishops.
During our 15-minute audience, the Holy Father received the acta and votum with keen interest. He was surprised that so many cardinals and bishops had already signed the votum. He then stated that he would read the acta of theological presentations on the Co-redemptrix. In the last few months, he has received still many more petitions for this Marian dogma from the present College of Cardinals and bishops.
A principal objection posed against the proclamation of a new Marian dogma is that it would be counterproductive to the Church’s mission of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. And yet, in the presentations submitted to Benedict XVI, your own presentation was titled “Mary Co-redemptrix as a Help in the Pursuit of Interreligious Dialogue.” Can you explain why you believe this dogma could actually help ecumenism and dialogue with other faiths?
Cardinal Toppo: In interreligious dialogue, it is of the utmost importance that both sides come to know each other’s faith position as accurately as possible. Now it is my contention that a Catholic’s presentation and explanation of Mary’s title as Co-redemptrix would greatly help his or her dialogue partner to understand correctly some basics of the Church’s teaching.
The title Co-redemptrix would naturally provide the occasion to present our doctrine concerning the Redeemer and the mystery of redemption, the primacy of God’s initiative, and the absolutely uncontestable role of the uniqueness of Jesus as the divine Redeemer.
That being the true position, the question will surely be raised as to how then we can speak of Mary as Co-redemptrix. This truth concerning redemption is to be complemented with the indispensable need for the cooperation of the human beneficiary. Humans can sin by themselves, but they cannot save by themselves.
In other words, cooperation is required, for each one according to the freely designed and chosen plan of God. This being the case, we can help our partners in dialogue understand many things about Mary: her cooperation with and submission to the plan of God, leading her to become the Mother of Jesus; her closeness to Jesus at the crucifixion as Co-redemptrix; her intercessory advocacy and influence with Jesus on our behalf; her being Mother of the Church, Queen of Heaven and Mediatrix of all graces.
Mary’s cooperation helps all Christians and even non-Christians to understand our own required cooperation with Jesus and with his grace for our salvation.
How do you think non-Catholic Christians would respond to a dogma of Mary’s spiritual motherhood of all peoples, and what do you think would be the response of the large Hindu population within your region?
Cardinal Toppo: I have no doubt that non-Catholic Christians participating in ecumenical dialogue, either will find this position acceptable or at least will have no valid or convincing argument against it.
For example, this is what happened in the past to a Lutheran tribal girl of Ranchi in 1890 when she discovered that Catholics actually do not worship Mary as a goddess, though they honor her because of her being the Mother of Jesus. She—Ruth Kispotta—joined the Catholic Church and founded our first indigenous congregation: the Daughters of St. Anne, Ranchi.
Adherents and followers of non-Christian faiths readily understand our position in this matter. This would also explain how it is that so many non-Christians flock to shrines of Our Lady all over the world, including within the vast continent of Asia. They felt drawn to Mary because of her proximity to Jesus.
There is an Indian shrine in honor of “Dhori Ma,” also known as the Lady of the Mines, based on a statue discovered by Hindu coal miners at Dhori. Today this statue of Our Lady is venerated by tens of thousands: Christians, Hindus, Muslims. All appreciate the Mother who takes care of her children and who is entirely at their service.
How do you think a new Marian dogma would affect our present relationship with the Muslim community and our dialogue with them?
Cardinal Toppo: A presentation of Mary as Co-redemptrix would be especially appreciated in dialogue with Muslims, for the simple reason that Mary is already well known to them from the Quran itself. Muslims revere Mary as the “greatest of women,” sinless and ever virgin. She is a woman of great dignity and her role and significance is acknowledged in the Quran, in the Hadith and in the piety of daily Muslim life.
One can say, without hesitation, that Mary has been, is and remains a true role model for both Muslims and Christians. She is a wonderful help in our interreligious dialogue. The correct presentation of Mary Co-redemptrix provides a smooth path to the discovery of Catholic truth and encourages all sincere persons to cooperate with the initiatives of the loving and attractive God whose mercy is from age to age.