Pope Urges Christian Unity in Devotion to Mary

 — Mar. 26, 198726 mars 1987

by Don A. Schanche, Los Angeles Times

In an important letter on the Virgin Mary, Pope John Paul II on Wednesday appealed to Christian churches in the East and West, and particularly in the Soviet Union, to seek unity in common devotion to the mother of Jesus Christ.

It was only John Paul’s sixth encyclical-as these especially authoritative papal letters are called-in the more than eight years since he became Pope.

A key section of the encyclical heaped particular praise on the steadfastness of Christians in the Soviet Union whose veneration for Mary, he said, “molded the faith, piety and prayer of the faithful.”

“Such a wealth of praise . . . could help us to hasten the day when the church can begin once more to breathe fully with her `two lungs,’ the East and the West,” the Pope wrote, noting that next year will be the 1,000th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in what is now the Soviet Union, a country that he has often said he wants to visit.

“The first millennium of the conversion of those noble lands to Christianity is approaching: lands of humble folk, of thinkers and of saints,” the pontiff wrote.

The encyclical, entitled “Redemptoris Mater” (The Mother of the Redeemer), was conceived to mark the special Marian Year which he earlier decreed for the Roman Catholic Church to begin June 7 and run until Aug. 15, 1988.

John Paul said he was moved to declare the Marian Year and to write the encyclical by “the prospect of the year 2000, now drawing near, in which the Bimillenial Jubilee of the birth of Jesus Christ at the same time directs our gaze toward his mother,” whose own birth date, he noted, “it is not possible to establish. . . .”

The 115-page encyclical, printed in many languages and sent to Catholic church leaders throughout the world, said that Mary could help the ecumenical movement, drawing together Christian churches in the West as well as the East, where the Orthodox church split with Rome more than 900 years ago.

“Why should we not all together look to her as our common mother, who prays for the unity of God’s family?” John Paul wrote.

But the main thrust of the encyclical was a restatement of traditional Roman Catholic teaching about Mary, some of which is not accepted by many Protestants.

Protestants generally agree with Catholic teaching that Mary conceived Jesus through divine intervention while remaining a virgin, but many disagree with the companion beliefs that Mary was born without original sin and that she was assumed bodily into heaven. The teachings concerning Mary have been a sore point in ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants.

The subject of Marian devotion also “takes on special importance in relation to women and to their status,” the pontiff wrote in a section that some Vatican sources interpreted as a restatement of John Paul’s traditional views concerning women in the church.

He wrote that by studying the example of Mary, women can find “the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advance.”

According to the pontiff, who has often restated his ironclad resistance to women in the Catholic priesthood, the church sees in women “the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable.”

Posted: Mar. 26, 1987 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6383
Categories: NewsIn this article: encyclicals, John Paul II, Mary
Transmis : 26 mars 1987 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6383
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : encyclicals, John Paul II, Mary

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