The Virgin Mary: Co-redemptrix in Our Times

Ján Košiar (*1960), Catholic priest born in Slovakia. Member of the Presidium of the Inter-Asso in Berlin. Laurea habilitation at Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum in Rome. Worked in Vatican Radio, collaborated with BBC as their correspondent Rome, and served in diplomatic service of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in the Republic of Belarus.

In the last ten years I have been very much interested in the title of Mary Co-redemptrix. My interest in Mariology, however, had started much earlier; back in 1986, when I met the late Prof. Salvatore Meo, OSM, who was then the dean of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum.

This happy encounter inspired me to start the Mariology course at the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum, which I attended in 1984-1986 as a part of my theological formation. In 1987 I was awarded the licentiate in Mariology, and it was in the same year that I received my priestly ordination.

Two years later the unexpected happened. The year 1989 witnessed the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent demise of the Communist rule in Central Europe. These events brought with them new challenges and new calls of apostolate. I had to leave Rome and returned to my homeland, Slovakia. There I was involved mainly in the field of mass media. The work was so much demanding and time consuming, that I was able to hand in the licentiate thesis only in 1994. The thesis was prepared under the guidance and supervision of Prof. Giorgio Eldarov and its title was The Sorrowful Mother of God in the veneration of the Slovak people (in Italian).

In 1999 I was called to Rome to work with the Slovak Section of the Vatican Radio, preparing daily broadcasts in Slovak language. This appointment lasted almost six years (1999-2005).

While in Rome I became very much interested in the topic of Mary’s role in our redemption and her title of Coredemptrix, since, about that time, the theme emerged as a matter of theological dispute between two Slovak bishops, my compatriots. So I thought that this unusual dispute would be a suitable subject of my postgraduate thesis (laurea). I was able to follow the dispute at close hand and to assemble a substantial amount of documentary material, including the correspondence which these Slovak bishops had exchanged among themselves. On the basis of this documentary evidence I wrote my thesis, which was later published in a book form with the title Could Holy Mary Be Called Co-redemptrix? Different Views of Slovak Bishops.

Applying the analytical-comparative method I divided my thesis into four chapters:

1. General considerations

2. Magisterium of the Church on Mary Co-redemptrix in the twentieth century

3. The problem of Mary Co-redemptrix in the Catholic Church in Slovakia

4. Mary Co-redemptrix in the present situation, and Conclusion.

The meaning of the title Co-redemptrix as I see it: The essential thing here is to understand, that the word Co-redeemer comes from the substantivum “redeemer” with the prefix “co-” – which means “together”, “with”. Therefore, as one who co-works with another person is called “collaborator”, the one who collaborates in redemption should be Co-redemptor/Co-redemptrix. Consequently, I would say, that the problem is more etymological-linguistic rather than theological-dogmatic. All, or almost all the theological and mariological authors agree, that the Virgin Mary collaborated in her Divine Son’s work of redemption. Yet, when She is called Co-redemptrix, controversies arise which – in extreme cases – can end in accusations of heresy.

I agree with those theologians who propose that the story of Mary's co-redemption (or her collaboration in the work of our redemption) began in Nazareth at the moment of the Incarnation when Mary replied to the Angel: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (Lk 1,38).

My belief in the title Co-redemptrix is further reinforced by the deep devotion to Mary as our Advocate and Mediatrix in the country of my birth. It is noteworthy to observe, that the Slovak, Polish, Belarussian and Russian text of the well-known and ancient prayer Sub tuum presidium after the first part: "Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta” is followed by these words: “Our Lady, our Mediatrix, our Advocate, reconcile us to your Son, recommend us to Him, and present us to Him.” Thus within this prayer the titles of Mediatrix and Advocate are included. The title Advocate is also found in the Marian antiphon Salve Regina.

Hence, no Catholic person north of the Danube has any doubt about these two titles. Similarly we find reference to these titles in one of the key documents of Second Vatican Council: “Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix“ (Lumen Gentium, no. 62).

It is also well known that the St. Pope John Paul II. in his sermons and addresses used the title of Mary Co-redemptrix at least seven times.

No one knows when, and if ever, the fifth Marian dogma on Our Lady as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate will be defined. However, one of the conclusions of my thesis is, that it is proper and legitimate to talk about this topic. In fact, there are several famous theologians who hold this opinion. One of them is Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, who was my professor of Ecclesiology at the Pontifical Lateran University. And I would like to mention two other devout men whom I knew personally, namely Bishop Paul M. Hnilica and Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík, a well-known expert on Eastern spirituality.

The question arises: How the declaration of the fifth Marian dogma could be promulgated? There are at least three ways:

1. The Holy Father does it alone after due reflection and examination of the relevant texts and research which himself already has done.

2. The Pope does so after the consultation with the episcopate of the whole world, including the Orthodox episcopate.

3. The Holy Father convenes the Special Synod to deal with this topic, which I consider as the most possible way.

Videant consules.

More about this can be found in my book: Could Holy Mary Be Called Co-redemptrix?