Two Cardinals and Four Other Bishops Ask Pope Francis to Proclaim New Marian Dogma

Updated: May 29



This is a reprint of a recent article on La Stampa - Vatican Insider.


On August 22, 2019, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, two Cardinals and four other bishops wrote an “open letter to Pope Francis” asking him to proclaim “the great role that the Virgin Mary played in God’s plan of Redemption.” (1) The two Cardinals are Juan Sandoval, the archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Telesphore Toppo, archbishop emeritus of Ranchi, India.  The other four signers are Archbishop Felix Job, archbishop emeritus of Ibadan, Nigeria; Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland; Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; and Bishop Antonio Baseotto, C.SS.R, the emeritus bishop of Argentina’s military ordinariate.


The six bishops recognize that there is much suffering in the world due to a lack of political, economic, and moral balance. They believe a great spiritual battle is going on between good and evil that requires help from the Lord, the angels, and the Mother of God. The six bishops are convinced that a dogmatic proclamation of the Virgin Mary’s “coredemptive role” and universal spiritual Motherhood will bring about “a historic new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” and allow the Blessed Mother “to fully exercise her maternal mediation on our behalf.”


The six prelates believe the new dogma will help to complete the Church’s teaching about Mary, which is already expressed by the four dogmas of her perpetual virginity, her dignity as the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, and her glorious Assumption body and soul into heaven. What is needed is a solemn affirmation of the Virgin Mary’s “human but crucial role in God’s plan of salvation, as the New Eve next to the New Adam, as the Spiritual Mother of all humanity.” 


The petition of the six bishops to define Mary’s coredemptive role is not the first time this has been proposed. During Vatican I (1869–1870), the French bishop, Jean Laurent, requested a dogmatic definition of Mary as Coredemptrix. The Council, though, did not believe the theology of Marian coredemption was sufficiently mature to make a formal statement. In the early twentieth century, the focus was more on Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces. In 1915, Cardinal Mercier of Mechelen-Brussels organized four separate petitions to Pope Benedict XV (r. 1914–1922) to define the Blessed Virgin as Mediatrix of all graces.  Benedict XVI in 1921  approved a feast for the Blessed Virgin Mary Mediatrix of all Graces for all the dioceses of Belgium and all other dioceses and religious congregations wishing to celebrate it. He stopped short, though, of defining Mary’s universal mediation of grace as a dogma.


From the 1920s through the 1950s Marian congresses held in Latin America, Canada, France, Spain, and the USA expressed support for a definition of Mary as Mediatrix of all graces.  After John XXIII (r. 1958–1963) announced the Second Vatican Council, 300–500 bishops requested either an affirmation or a definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace and some 54 bishops requested a definition of Mary as Coredemptrix. John XXIII, however, did not want any new definitions made at the Council. The Blessed Mother is not referred to as Coredemptrix in chapter eight of Lumen gentium (which is on Mary). She is, however, referred to as Mediatrix in Lumen gentium, 62, but not Mediatrix of all graces.  The 1962 draft on Mary (which formed the basis for Lumen gentium, chapter eight of 1964) referred to Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces, and it referred to her as “Coredemptrix” in two footnotes. Because of ecumenical concerns, however, the footnotes to Mary as Coredemptrix were dropped, and the title, Mediatrix of all graces was changed to simply “Mediatrix.” 


Although Vatican II chose not to refer to Mary as Coredemptrix,, some theologians, such as Jean Galot, S.J and Georges Cottier, O.P., have argued that Lumen gentium affirms the doctrine of Marian coredemption without using the title, Coredemptrix (see Galot in La Civilità Cattolica [1994] III: 236-237 and Cottier, in L’Osservatore Romano, June 4, 2002). Pius XI (r. 1922–1939) was the first Pope to refer publicly to Mary as Coredemptrix, and John Paul II publicly called Mary “Coredemptrix” at least six times, and he called Mary “Mediatrix of all graces” at least seven times.  Benedict XVI also referred to Mary as “Mediatrix of all graces” in his January 10, 2012 letter to Archbishop Zimowski, who was representing the Holy See for the World Day of the Sick.


After Vatican II, calls for a dogmatic definition of Mary as Coredemptrix or Mediatrix of seemed to cease, but they revived after the Marian Year proclaimed by John Paul II for 1987–1988. In the early 1990s, a group known as Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici (Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix) was formed by Dr. Mark Miravalle, a permanent deacon and Professor of Mariology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio USA. Vox Populi sought petitions for a dogmatic proclamation by the pope of Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate. Over the last 20 years, 8 million Catholics, including 800 bishops and cardinals have signed the petition.   


Some Catholics, however, have reservations about the wisdom of such a dogmatic proclamation. In August 1996, during the twelfth International Mariological Congress held at Częstochowa (Poland), a group of 23 theologians—including three Orthodox, one Anglican, and one Lutheran—met briefly and issued a statement advising against the dogmatic proclamation. In addition to ecumenical concerns, they said Marian titles such as “Coredemptrix’ were ‘ambiguous’ and in need of greater study and clarification (L’Osservatore Romano June 4, 1997). 


This non-magisterial judgment of an ad hoc group of theologians has not stopped those favoring the dogmatic proclamation. In 2005 six cardinals—Telesphore Toppo, Luis Aponte Martínez, Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., Edouard Gagnon, P.S.S., Ricardo Vidal, and Ernesto Corripio Ahumada directed and promoted a May 3–7, 2005 symposium held in Fatima, Portugal on “Mary Unique Cooperator in the Redemption” These cardinals then petitioned Benedict XVI to proclaim Mary as the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity; the Coredemptrix with Jesus the Redeemer; the Mediatrix of all graces with Jesus, the one Mediator; and Advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race. The book that came out from this symposium also included contributions by Cardinals López Trujillo, Christoph Schönborn, O.P., and Tomáš Špidlík and two other bishops.


The August 22, 2019 “open letter to Pope Francis” by the two Cardinals and four other bishops is the most recent effort to have a dogmatic proclamation of Mary’s coredemptive role in God’s plan of salvation. The two cardinals and four bishops who signed the “open letter” are hopeful that Pope Francis, who is very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, will receive this petition with favor.


-Robert Fastiggi Ph.D. is a professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, USA


1)  The letter can be found in English and six other languages here: https://openletterformary.com/

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