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The Universal Queenship of Mary

The kingship of Christ is the official teaching of the Church and is honored in the Liturgy. The queenship of Mary is parallel to and subordinate to Christ’s office. (1) It too has been officially taught, in Pius XII’s Encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, which gave doctrinal substance to an idea that recurred frequently in church teaching, notably in the same Pope’s address to pilgrims at Fatima, 13 May, 1946. The queenship has a feast which is retained in the reformed Liturgy.

The Pope reproduces texts from the Fathers, Doctors and Popes on the queenship, and also draws on the Liturgy and popular prayers for similar supporting quotations. The testimonies are cited from east and west; the witness of iconography since the Council of Ephesus is mentioned.

The basis of the royal dignity and office is “a principle already evident in the documents handed down by tradition and in the sacred Liturgy, without doubt her divine maternity.” Linking Luke 1:32-33 and 1:43 with a sentence from St. John of Damascus, the Pope concludes: “And it can likewise be said that the first one who with heavenly voice announced Mary’s royal office was Gabriel the Archangel himself.”

The Encyclical also adduces Mary’s role in the Redemption as a ground of her queenship. The Pope argues from similarity with the kingly dignity of Jesus Christ, which was founded in his redemptive work as well as in his divinity, as Pius XI taught in Quas primas. St. Anselm is invoked as is Suarez but principally the argument is from Mary’s association with Christ:

And so it is that Jesus Christ alone, God and man, is King in the full, proper and absolute sense of the term. Yet Mary also, although in a restricted way (temperato modo) and only by analogy, shares in the royal dignity as the mother of Christ who is God, as his associate in the work of Redemption, in his conflict with the enemy, and in his complete victory. From this association with Christ the King she obtains a height of splendor unequalled in all creation.

Mary’s primacy of excellence places her royal prerogative in stronger relief. It derives, says the Pope, recalling the words of Pius IX, from the abundance of grace with which she was filled from the first moment of her existence. Pius XII then ventures on much debated ground:

The Blessed Virgin has not only been given the highest degree of excellence and perfection after Christ, but also she shares in the power which her Son and our Redeemer exercises over the minds and wills of men. For if the Word of God, through the human nature assumed by him, works miracles and gives grace, if he uses the Sacraments and uses his saints as instruments for the salvation of souls, why should he not use his Blessed Mother’s office and activity to bring us the fruits of the Redemption?

Some theologians will see support, in the Pope’s use of the word instrument, for a theory of a physical instrumental causality in Mary’s distribution of grace. Pius is not conclusive in his assertion. Nor is Vatican II which here remained true to its intention of not “deciding those questions not yet fully clarified by the work of theologians.” (2) It did not go beyond a general affirmation of the queenship: “She was exalted by the Lord as Queen of all (tanquam universorum Reginam) in order that she might be more thoroughly conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords and the conqueror of sin and death.” (3) Elsewhere, the Council calls Mary “Queen of Apostles.”

Mary’s queenship cannot be limited to intercession. How she exercises what Leo XIII called her “almost immeasurable power” in the distribution of graces is an area still to be fully researched.

The late Fr. O’Carroll wrote widely on theological and ecumenical topics and was an internationally known Mariologist. He was a member of the Pontifical Marian Academy, the French Society for Marian Studies, and an Associate of the Bollandistes. This article was excerpted from Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael Glazier Inc., 1983.


(1) Bibliographies: Maria, Études sur la Sainte Vierge (8 vols), ed. H. du Manoir, S.J., 1949- (henceforth Maria), V, 1072-80; E. Lamirande, in La Royauté de l’Immaculée (Ottawa, 1955) 233-42; L. Galati, Maria, la Regina(Rome, ed. Paoline, 1962, 341-49); G. M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza (4 vols.), Rome, 1969, II, 502-15; ibid., Maria SS. Regina della Chiesa, 345-502. Collective works, Souveraineté de Marie, Congres marial national (Boulogne sur Mer, Paris, 1938); Alma Socia Christi: Proceedings of the Rome International Mariological Congress, 1950, III, De praedestinatione et regalitate B.V. Mariae, 1952; Marian Studies: Proceedings of the American Mariological Society, Tampa, Florida, 4 (1953); Marianum, Rome, 16 (1954), 5; Estudios Marianos, Madrid (henceforth EstM), 17 (1956). S. G. Mathews, S.M., Queen of the Universe, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1957; Maria et Ecclesia: Proceedings of the Lourdes International Mariological Congress, 1958 (Henceforth ME), V, Mariae potestas regalis in Ecclesia, 1959; cf. R. Bernard, O.P., “Le couronnement de gloire de la très Sainte Vierge,” La Vie Spirituelle, Paris, 32 (1932), 113-35; L. de Gruyter, De Beata Maria Regina, isquisitio positivo-speculativa (Tenlings, 1934); H. Barré, C.S.Sp., “Marie Reine du Monde,” Études Mariale: Bulletin de la Société francaise d’Études Mariales, Paris, 3 (1937), 19-76; id., “La Royauté de Marie pendant les neuf premiers siècles,” Recherches de Science Religieuse, Paris, 29 (1939), 129-162, 303-334; id., “La Royauté de Marie au XIIe siècle en Occident,” ME V (1959), 93-120; M. J. Nicolas, O.P., “La Vierge-Reine,” Révue Thomiste, 45 (1939), 1-29, 207-231; A. Luis, C.SS.R., La Realeza de Maria (Madrid, Ed. El Perpetuo Socorro, 1942); id., “La realeza de Maria en los ultimos veinte anos,” EstM 11 (1951), 221-52; G. M. Roschini, O.S.M., “Royauté de Marie,” Maria I, 603-18; id., Maria SS. Regina della creazione e della storia (Tolentino, 1949); id., La Regina dell’Universo (Rovigo, IPAG, 1950); id., La regalità di Maria nell’innologia liturgica del medioevo, Studia mediaevalia et mariologica P.C. Balic, dicata, Rome, 1972; D. Bertetto, S.D.B., Maria Regina (Turin, L.J.C.E., 1954); J. Galot, S.J., “Reine de l’univers,” Nouvelle Révue Théologique, Louvain, 1955, 491-505; Basilio de S. Pablo, C.P., “La teologia de la Realeza de Maria,” Ephermides Mariologicae, Madrid, 1956, 163-91; T. Bartolomei, O.S.M., Maria Signora e Regina (Rome, 1965); C. Sericoli, O.F.M., “De Regalitate B. M. Virginis juxta auctorum Franciscalium doctrinam,” Antonianum, Rome, 30 (1955), 105-118, 221-224; F. Schmidt, O.F.M., “Mary’s Universal Queenship in Franciscan Theologians,” Virgo Immaculata: Proceedings of Rome Congress, XII, 85-111; id. Mariology, ed. J.B. Carol (3 vols.), 1955-1961, II, Universal Queenship of Mary, p. 493-549.

(2) Lumen Gentium 54.

(3) Lumen Gentium 59.

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