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Presence of the Mother of the Church in Vatican II

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 13 December 1995 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. Today I would like to reflect on the particular presence of the Mother of the Church at what was certainly the most important ecclesial event of our century; the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, opened by Pope John XXIII on the morning of 11 October 1962 and closed by Pope Paul VI on 8 December 1965.

An extraordinary Marian tone actually marked the Council from its indiction. In the Apostolic Letter Celebrandi Concilii Oecumenici, my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God John XXIII, had already recommended recourse to the powerful intercession of Mary, "Mother of grace and heavenly patroness of the Council" (11 April 1961, AAS 53 [1961] 242).

Subsequently, in 1962, on the feast of the Purification of Mary, Pope John set the opening of the Council for 11 October, explaining that he had chosen this date in memory of the grant Council of Ephesus, which precisely on that date had proclaimed Mary "Theotokos", Mother of God (Motu proprio Concilium, AAS 54 [1962] 67-68). Later, in his opening address, the Pope entrusted the Council itself to the "Help of Christians, Help of Bishops", imploring her motherly assistance for the successful outcome of the Council's work (AAS 54 [1962] 795).

The Council Fathers also turned their thoughts expressly to Mary in of their message to the world at the opening of the Council’s sessions, saying, "We successors of the Apostles, joined together in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, form one apostolic body" (Acta Synodalia I, I, 254), thus linking themselves, in communion with Mary, to the early Church awaiting the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).

2. At the second session of the Council, it was proposed that the treatment of the Blessed Virgin Mary be put into the Constitution on the Church. This initiative, although expressly recommended by the Theo logical Commission, prompted a variety of opinions.

Some, who considered this proposal inadequate for emphasizing the very special mission of Jesus' Mother in the Church, maintained that only a separate document could express Mary's dignity, pre-eminence, exceptional holiness and unique role in the Redemption accomplished by the Son. Furthermore, regarding Mary as above the Church in a certain way, they were afraid that the decision to put the Marian teaching in the treatment of the Church would not sufficiently emphasize Mary's privileges and would reduce her role to the level of other members of the Church (Acta Synodalia, II, III, 338-342).

Others, however, spoke in favour of the Theological Commission's proposal to put the doctrinal treatment of Mary and the Church in a single document. According to them, these realities could not be separated at the Council which, in aiming to rediscover the identity and mission of the People of God, had to show its close connection with her who is the type and exemplar of the Church in her virginity and motherhood. Indeed, as an eminent member of the ecclesial community, the Blessed Virgin has a special place in the Church's doctrine. Furthermore, by stressing the link between Mary and the Church, Christians of the Reformation could better understand of the Marian teaching presented by the Council (Acta Synodalia, II, III, 343-345).

The Council Fathers, moved by the same love for Mary, thus tended, in their expression of different doctrinal positions, to favour various aspects of her person. Some reflected on Mary primarily in her relationship to Christ, others considered her more as a member of the Church.

3. After an intense doctrinal discussion attentive to the dignity of the Mother of God and to her particular presence in the Church's life, it was decided that the treatment of Mary would be situated in the Council's document on the Church (cf. Acta Synodalia, II, III, 627).

The new schema on the Blessed Virgin, drafted so as to be included in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, shows real doctrinal progress. The stress placed on Mary's faith and a more systematic concern to base Marian doctrine on Scripture are significant and useful elements for enriching the piety and esteem of the Christian people for the Blessed Mother of God.

Moreover, with the passing of time the danger of reductionism, feared by some Fathers, proved to be unfounded: Mary's mission and privileges were amply reaffirmed: her co-operation in the divine plan of salvation was highlighted; the harmony of this co-operation with Christ's unique mediation appeared were evident.

For the first time, the conciliar Magisterium offered the Church a doctrinal exposition of Mary's role in Christ's redemptive work and in the life of the Church.

Thus, we must consider the Council Fathers' choice, which proved very fruitful for later doctrinal work, to have been a truly providential decision.

4. During the Council sessions, many Fathers wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary's role in the work of salvation. The particular context in which Vatican II's Mariological debate took place did not allow those wishes, although substantial and widespread, to be a accepted, but the Council's entire discussion of Mary remains vigorous and balanced, and the topics themselves, though not fully defined, received significant attention in the overall treatment.

Thus, the hesitation of some Fathers regarding the title of Mediatrix did not prevent the Council from using this title once, and from stating in other terms Mary's mediating role from her consent to the Angel's message to her motherhood in the order of grace (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 62). Furthermore, the Council asserts her co-operation "in a wholly singular way" in the work of restoring supernatural life to souls (ibid., n. 61). Lastly, even if it avoided using the title "Mother of the Church", the text of Lumen gentium clearly underscores the Church's veneration for Mary as a most loving Mother.

The entire exposition in the eighth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church clearly shows that terminological precautions did not prevent a very rich and positive presentation of basic doctrine, an expression of faith and love for her whom the Church acknowledges as Mother and Model.

On the other hand, the Fathers' differing points of view, as they emerged during the conciliar debate, turned out to be providential, because, on the basis of their harmonious relationship, they have afforded the faith and devotion of the Christian people a more complete and balanced presentation of the marvelous identity of the Lord's Mother and of her exceptional role in the work of Redemption."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli francofoni

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’ai la joie de saluer chaleureusement les Cardinaux, les Evêques et les autres participants du Synode pour le Liban qui sont venus à cette audience. A la veille de la conclusion de ce Synode, je tiens à rendre grâce, avec les membres de l’Assemblée, pour les échanges qui ont eu lieu, dans l’espérance que leurs Eglises seront toujours plus vivantes et fidèles à l’Evangile, au cœur d’un pays fraternel et pacifié.

Je salue aussi très cordialement les pèlerins de langue française. J’adresse en particulier mes souhaits de bienvenue aux jeunes de Valence et à ceux de Nice et, à travers eux, je salue tous les jeunes de France.

Que Dieu vous bénisse et qu’Il vous accompagne tous les jours de votre vie!

Ai pellegrini anglofoni

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me today to welcome the English–speaking visitors and pilgrims. I extend a special greeting to groups from Sweden and the United States. May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen Gedanken grüe ich Euch alle, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, sehr herzlich. Möge das kommende Fest der Geburt Christi für Euch, Eure Angehörigen und Freunde zu Hause eine gläubige Begegnung mit dem menschgewordenen Gott werden. Dazu erteile ich Euch und allen, die uns in diesem adventlichen Harren auf den Herrn verbunden sind, von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora cordialmente a los visitantes de lengua española, venidos de América Latina y de España. En particular, saludo a los fieles de las Parroquias San Pío X, de Algemesí, y San Pedro del Pinatar, de Murcia. Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí y alentaros a celebrar cristianamente las próximas fiestas de Navidad, os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Atodos os presentes de língua portuguesa, dirijo a minha sauda ção, com uma lembrança especial para os membros da Peregrinação Franciscano–Antoniana de Portugal. Nestes dias do Advento, ouvimos, insistente, o apelo: “Preparai os caminhos do Senhor”! As vidas dos santos como Francisco de Assis e António de Lisboa, cujos passos estais seguindo nestes dias, são expressão desse apelo. Guardai–o no coração e testemunhai–o com a vida, para que todos os homens regressem aos caminhos do Senhor, caminhos de paz e bem. Para vós e vossas famílias: cordiais votos de Feliz Natal e a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam jeszcze pielgrzymów z Polski, wszystkich i każdego. Zakopane czeka, musi być cierpliwe. Witam pielgrzymkę Rady Miejskiej z Zakopanego – z burmistrzem, również z Zakopanego, parafię Święte; Rodziny i parafię Świętego Krzyża oraz pielgrzymów z sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej na Krzeptówkach – księży palotynów. Witam również grupę turystyczną z Bydgoszczy oraz innych pielgrzymów nie objętych tymi grupami. Witam bardzo serdecznie ksieży biskupów: ks. bpa Pacyfika Dydycza z Drohiczyna, bpa Błażeja Kruszyłowicza ze Szczecina.

Dzisiejsza katecheza jest dopełnieniem katechez o Matce Bożej i nawiązuje do sposobu, w jaki temat maryjny został podjęty przez Sobór Watykański II. Wiemy, czytając dokumenty soborowe, że nie ma osobnego dokumentu o Matce Bożej, natomiast w dokumencie o Kościele “Lumen Gentium” bardzo ważny jest rozdział VIII, poświęcony szczególnemu powołaniu Maryi w posłannictwie Chrystusa i Kościoła.

I to jest wspaniała synteza mariologiczna, do której wciąż nawiązujemy, nawiązujemy w nauczaniu – jak chociażby w encyklice “Marialis

Cultus” Pawła VI czy w mojej encyklice “Redemptoris Mater” –i nawiązujemy także w życiu, w życiu religijnym.

Dla was teraz, w Adwencie, na Podhalu i w Polsce, w centrum znajduje się Msza roratnia i uczęszczanie na roraty świadczy o wielkiej tęsknocie za Bożym Narodzeniem, za przyjściem Chrystusa. To polskie przeżycie Adwentu wszyscy nosimy w sobie, ja teź. Niech wam Bóg błogosławi i wesołych świąt życzę wszystkim tutaj obecnym, zwłaszcza góralom.

Per l’iniziativa di “Telethon 1995”

Mi è gradito esprimere vivo apprezzamento per l’iniziativa denominata “Telethon 1995”, che si sta svolgendo in Italia in questi giorni. Si tratta di un importante appuntamento di solidarietà che, grazie anche agli strumenti della comunicazione sociale, vuole spingere i cittadini a farsi partecipi delle sofferenze di quanti sono colpiti dalla distrofia muscolare. Vada quindi una lode sentita a tutti coloro che operano con impegno e dedizione a favore di questi nostri fratelli sofferenti, come pure a quanti, in vario modo, contribuiscono a sensibilizzare l’opinione pubblica, affinché siano sostenute la ricerca e la lotta contro questa malattia. Il Natale ormai vicino, festa della bontà e dell’universale fratellanza, ispiri nei cuori di tutti sentimenti di umana comprensione e di concreta generosità.

Ai fedeli italiani

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare al folto gruppo guidato dalle Figlie di Nostra Signora del Monte Calvario, in occasione del X anniversario della beatificazione della Fondatrice, Virginia Centurione Bracelli. Questa ricorrenza rinnovi in tutti – religiose, alunni delle varie scuole, personale sanitario e membri del centro sportivo – la gioia di vivere il Vangelo in ogni situazione e in ogni ambiente.

Saluto poi i partecipanti al Congresso della Società Italiana di Cardiologia, i militari del Battaglione “Lucania” e le imprenditrici nel settore dell’artigianato, alle quali auguro di poter armonizzare sempre l’impegno professionale con la vita spirituale e familiare.

Sono lieto di accogliere inoltre alcuni degli artisti che animeranno dopodomani in quest’Aula il concerto di Natale, avente come fine la raccolta di fondi per le nuove chiese di Roma. Grazie per il vostro contributo!

Un saluto speciale riservo anche a due nutrite scolaresche: alla Scuola Media “Giuliano” di Latina e alla Scuola Elementare di Via Acquaroni al quartiere Tor Bella Monaca di Roma. A voi, cari ragazzi, e a tutti i vostri compagni auguro di cuore un buon Natale!

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Il mio pensiero va infine a tutti i giovani presenti, ai malati e agli sposi novelli. Oggi la liturgia fa memoria di santa Lucia, vergine e martire. In alcune zone d’Italia e d’Europa è consuetudine scambiarsi in questa ricorrenza i doni per il Natale ormai prossimo. Vorrei invitare voi, cari giovani, a scambiarvi il dono dell’amicizia e della testimonianza cristiana; a voi, cari malati, chiederei di donare una preghiera speciale per le persone non vedenti, che hanno in santa Lucia la loro patrona; e a voi, sposi novelli, auguro di crescere sempre nella fedeltà al reciproco dono.

Durante l’udienza generale Giovanni Paolo II esprime il proprio incoraggiamento ai partecipanti al “Vertice Umanitario” che si apre domani a Madrid.
Queste le sue parole.  

Domani, 14 dicembre, si terrà a Madrid un “Vertice Umanitario” con la partecipazione dell’Unione Europea e di alcuni dei principali organismi mondiali per gli aiuti umanitari. Scopo dell’incontro sarà di elaborare un documento comune per risvegliare la coscienza della comunità internazionale sui principi e le scelte che dovranno ispirare l’azione umanitaria nel prossimo decennio. Chiediamo al Signore di suscitare nei cuori di tutti profondi sentimenti di responsabile solidarietà davanti ai gravissimi problemi con cui si confrontano oggi milioni di uomini e donne, al fine di trovare soluzioni rispettose della loro dignità e dei loro diritti.


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