Pope Paul VI explicitly proclaimed Mary Mother of the Church and asked
that she honoured and invoked with this title by all the Christian
Mary as Mother of the Church was the topic of the Holy Father's
catechesis at the General Audience of Wednesday, 17 September. "The
title 'Mother of the Church' reflects the deep conviction of the
Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the mother of the person of
Christ, but also of the faithful. She who is recognized as mother of
salvation, life and grace, mother of the saved and mother of the living,
is rightly proclaimed Mother of the Church", the Pope said. Here is
a translation of his catechesis, which was the 63rd in the series on the
Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. After proclaiming Mary a "pre-eminent member", the
"type" and "model" of the Church, the Second Vatican
Council says: "The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit,
honours her with filial affection and devotion as a most beloved
mother" (Lumen gentium, n. 53).
To tell the truth, the conciliar text does not explicitly attribute
the title "Mother of the Church" to the Blessed Virgin, but it
unmistakeably expresses its content by repeating a statement made in
1748, more than two centuries ago, by Pope Benedict XTV (Bullarium
Romanum, series 2, t. 2, n. 61, p. 428).
In this document my venerable Predecessor, in describing the filial
sentiments of the Church, which recognizes Mary as her most beloved
mother, indirectly proclaims her Mother of the Church.
Title expresses Mary's maternal relationship with the Church
2. This title was rather rarely used in the past, but has recently
become more common in the pronouncements of the Church's Magisterium and
in the devotion of the Christian people. The faithful first called upon
Mary with the title "Mother of God". "Mother of the
faithful" or "our Mother", to emphasize her personal
relationship with each of her children.
Later, because of the greater attention paid to the mystery of the
Church and to Mary's relationship to her, the Blessed Virgin began more
frequently to be invoked as "Mother of the Church". Before the
Second Vatican Council, this expression was found in Pope Leo XIII's
Magisterium, in which it is affirmed that Mary is "in all truth
mother of the Church" (Acta Leonis XIII, 15, 302). The title
was later used many times in the teachings of John XXIII and Paul VI.
3. Although the title "Mother of the Church" was only
recently attributed to Mary, it expresses the Blessed Virgin's maternal
relationship with the Church as shown already in several New Testament
Since the Annunciation, Mary was called, to give her consent to the
coming of the messianic kingdom, which would take place with the
formation of the Church.
When at Cana Mary asked the Son to exercise his messianic power, she
made a fundamental contribution to implanting the faith in the first
community of disciples, and she co-operated in initiating God's kingdom,
which has its "seed" and "beginning" in the Church
(cf. Lumen gentium, n. 5).
On Calvary, Mary united herself to the sacrifice of her Son and made
her own maternal contribution to the work of salvation, which took the
form of labour pains, the birth of the new humanity.
In addressing the words "Woman, behold your son" to Mary,
the Crucified One proclaims her motherhood not only in relation to the
Apostle John but also to every disciple. The Evangelist himself, by
saying that Jesus had to die "to gather into one the children of
God who are scattered abroad" (Jn 11:52), indicates the Church's
birth as the fruit of the redemptive sacrifice with which Mary is
The Evangelist St Luke mentions the presence of Jesus' Mother in the
first community of Jerusalem (Acts 1:14). In this way he stresses Mary's
maternal role in the newborn Church, comparing it to her role in the
Redeemer's birth. The maternal dimension thus becomes a fundamental
element of Mary's relationship with the new People of the redeemed.
4. Following Sacred Scripture, patristic teaching recognizes Mary's
motherhood in the work of Christ and therefore in that of the Church,
although in terms which are not always explicit.
According to St Irenaeus, Mary "became a cause of salvation for
the whole human race" (Haer. 3, 22, 4; PG 7, 959), and the
pure womb of the Virgin "regenerates men in God" (Haer.
4, 33, 11; PG 7, 1080). This is re-echoed by St Ambrose, who
says: "A Virgin has begotten the salvation of the world, a Virgin
has given life to all things" (Ep. 63, 33; PL 16,
1198), and by other Fathers who call Mary "Mother of
salvation" (Severian of Gabala, Or. 6 in mundi creationem,
10, PG 54, 4; Faustus of Riez, Max. Bibl. Patrum,
In the Middle Ages, St Anselm addressed Mary in this way: "You
are the mother of justification and of the justified, the Mother of
reconciliation and of the reconciled, the mother of salvation and of the
saved" (Or. 52, 8; PL 158, 957), while other authors
attribute to her the titles "Mother of grace" and "Mother
Pope Paul VI proclaimed Mary 'Mother of the Church’
5. The title "Mother of the Church" thus reflects the deep
conviction of the Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the
mother of the person of Christ, but also of the faithful. She who is
recognized as mother of salvation, life and grace, mother of the saved
and mother of the living, is rightly proclaimed Mother of the Church.
Pope Paul VI would have liked the Second Vatican Council itself to
have proclaimed "Mary Mother of the Church, that is, of the whole
People of God, of the faithful and their Pastors". He did so
himself in his speech at the end of the Council's third session (21
November 1964), also asking that "henceforth the Blessed Virgin be
honoured and invoked with this title by all the Christian people" (AAS
In this way, my venerable Predecessor explicitly enunciated the
doctrine contained in chapter eight of Lumen gentium, hoping that
the title of Mary, Mother of the Church, would have an ever more
important place in the liturgy and piety of the Christian people.