Today many Anglican and Protestant Christians venerate Mary, and the
Orthodox have always loved and revered her with ardent devotion
It is a source of great joy "that among the separated brethren
too there are those who give due honour to the Mother of our Lord and
Saviour", the Holy Father said at the General Audience of
Wednesday, 12 November, as he continued his catechesis on Our Lady. In
the present talk the Pope discussed the honour paid to Mary by various
Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Here is a translation of his
catechesis, which was the 70th in the series on the Blessed Virgin and
was given in Italian.
1. After explaining the relationship between Mary and the Church, the
Second Vatican Council rejoices in observing that the Blessed Virgin is
also honoured by Christians who do not belong to the Catholic community:
"It gives great joy and comfort to this sacred Synod that among the
separated brethren too there are those who give due honour to the Mother
of our Lord and Saviour ..." (Lumen gentium, n. 69; cf. Redemptoris
Mater, nn. 29-34). In view of this fact, we can say that Mary's
universal motherhood, even if it makes the divisions among Christians
seem all the sadder, represents a great sign of hope for the ecumenical
Many Protestant communities, because of a particular conception of
grace and ecclesiology, are opposed to Marian doctrine and devotion,
maintaining that Mary's co-operation in the work of salvation prejudices
Christ's unique mediation. In this view, devotion to Mary would compete
in a way with the honour owed the Son.
2. In recent years, however, further study of the thought of the
first Reformers has shed light on positions more open to Catholic
doctrine. Luther's writings, for example, show love and veneration for
Mary, extolled as a model of every virtue: he upholds the sublime
holiness of the Mother of God and at times affirms the privilege of the
Immaculate Conception, sharing with other Reformers belief in Mary's
Eastern Christians have particular devotion to Mary
The study of Luther and Calvin's thought, as well as the analysis of
some texts of Evangelical Christians, have contributed to a renewed
attention by some Protestants and Anglicans to various themes of
Mariological doctrine. Some have even arrived at positions very close to
those of Catholics regarding the fundamental points of Marian doctrine,
such as her divine motherhood, virginity, holiness and spiritual
The concern for stressing the presence of women in the Church
encourages the effort to recognize Mary's role in salvation history.
All these facts are so many reasons to have hope for the ecumenical
journey. Catholics have a deep desire to be able to share with all their
brothers and sisters in Christ the joy that comes from Mary's presence
in life according to the Spirit.
3. Among the brethren who "give due honour to the Mother of our
Lord and Saviour", the Council mentions Eastern Christians,
"who with devout mind and fervent impulse give honour to the Mother
of God, Ever-Virgin" (Lumen gentium, n. 69).
As we can see from their many expressions of devotion, veneration for
Mary represents a significant element of communion between Catholics and
However, there remain some disagreements regarding the dogmas of the
Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, even if these truths were
first expounded by certain Eastern theologians—one need only recall
great writers like Gregory Palamas (d. 1359), Nicholas Cabasilas (d.
after 1369) and George Scholarios (d. after 1472).
These disagreements, however, are perhaps more a question of
formulation than of content and must never make us forget our common
belief in Mary's divine motherhood, her perpetual virginity, her perfect
holiness and her maternal intercession with her Son. As the Second
Vatican Council recalled, this "fervent impulse" and
"devout mind" unite Catholics and Orthodox in devotion to the
Mother of God.
4. At the end of Lumen gentium the Council invites us to
entrust the unity of Christians to Mary: "The entire body of the
faithful pours forth urgent supplications to the Mother of God and of
men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may
now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before
her Son in the fellowship of all the saints" (ibid.).
Just as Mary's presence in the early community fostered oneness of
heart, which prayer strengthened and made visible (cf. Acts 1:14), so
the most intense communion with her whom Augustine called the
"Mother of unity" (Sermo 192, 2; PL 38, 1013)
will be able to bring Christians to the point of enjoying the
long-awaited gift of ecumenical unity.
Through Mary we pray for unity and harmony
We ceaselessly pray to the Blessed Virgin so that, just as at the
beginning she supported the journey of the Christian community's oneness
in prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel, so today she may obtain
through her intercession reconciliation and full communion among all
believers in Christ.
Mother of men, Mary knows well the needs and aspirations of humanity.
The Council particularly asks her to intercede so that "all
families of people, whether they are honoured with the title of
Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily
gathered together in peace and harmony into one People of God, for the
glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity" (Lumen gentium,
The peace, harmony and unity for which the Church and humanity hope
still seem far away. Nevertheless, they are a gift of the Spirit to be
constantly sought, as we learn from Mary and trust in her intercession.
5. With this petition Christians share the expectation of her who,
filled with the virtue of hope, sustains the Church on her journey to
the future with God.
Having personally achieved happiness because she "believed that
there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the
Lord" (Lk 1:45), the Blessed Virgin accompanies believers—and the
whole Church—so that in the world, amid the joys and sufferings of
this life, they may be true prophets of the hope that never disappoints.