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Response to a Statement of an International Theological Commission
of the Pontifical International Marian Academy

June 13, 1997

1. The Title, "Coredemptrix" and the Papal Teachings of Pope John Paul II

     A primary caution of the commission seems to be against the specific use of the title "Coredemptrix" in discussing the unique cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with and under Jesus Christ in the Redemption of humanity. It must be strongly underscored that our present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has used explicitly the title "Coredemptrix" on at least five occasions in Papal Teachings during his present pontificate.
1  This is well illustrated in the 1985 Papal Address of Pope John Paul II in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where both the title "Coredemptrix" is used and an explanation of the role is given:

"Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the ‘yes’ of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment. There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son, Mary is the dawn of Redemption; ...Crucified spiritually with her crucified son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she "lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth" (Lumen Gentium, 58)...In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ ‘to gather into one all the dispersed children of God’ (Jn. 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity....In fact, Mary's role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son"2

     More recently, in his general audience address of 9 April 1997 (at present, John Paul has given a series of over 50 Marian catecheses), the Holy Father uses the example of St. Paul’s call for all Christians to be "God’s fellow workers" (1 Cor. 3:9), or in some translations "co-workers," and also specifies Mary’s unique co-operation in the work of redemption (without inferring any equality between Christians, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the unique act of redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ alone):

"Moreover, when the Apostle Paul says: "For we are God’s fellow workers" (1 Cor 3:9), he maintains the real possibility for man to co-operate with God. The collaboration of believers, which obviously excludes any equality with him, is expressed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their personal contribution to its taking root in human hearts.However, applied to Mary, the term ‘co-operator’ acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with the Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity."3

     In all instances of Magisterial usage of the term, "Coredemptrix," the prefix "co" does not mean equal to, but comes from the Latin word, "cum" which means "with." The title of "Coredemptrix" applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine Lord of all, in the saving process of humanity's redemption. Rather, it denotes Mary's singular and unique sharing with her Son in the saving work of redemption for the human family. The Mother of Jesus participates in the redemptive work of her Saviour Son, who alone could reconcile humanity with the Father in his glorious divinity and humanity.4

     Hence the title and role of Mary as Coredemptrix reveals Mary’s unique participation, her "co-working" and "co-operating" with and under Jesus Christ the sole Redeemer of humanity, while at the same time calling all Christians to cooperate in the saving work of redemption (cf. Col. 1:24). The teaching of our Holy Father that "the collaboration of believers...obviously excludes any equality with him..." corrects the somewhat misleading statement made in a commentary to the statement of the theological commission that the title "Coredemptrix," or the doctrine of Marian coredemption, inappropriately "names" Mary to be "on the level with the Word of God in his particular redemptive function."

     Lumen Gentium, n. 62 articulates the rightful participation of creatures in the one mediation of Jesus Christ without the confusion of being inappropriately perceived as being on "the level with the Word of God":

"No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source" (Lumen Gentium, n. 62).

     No claim is made here that the documents of the present Holy Father, where he employs the title "Coredemptrix," are the most definitive of his pontificate, as has been alluded to by commentators of the commission. At the same time, it would constitute an even greater error to unjustifiably claim that the Papal Teachings of John Paul II and the explicit usage of the title "Coredemptrix" have no theological importance and significance. They are clear, repeated, indications of how the Holy Father understands and would define what makes the Virgin Mother’s cooperation in the work of redemption under the Cross singular and non-repeatable by any other believer. To say that her cooperation is singular is not to say it is equal to Christ’s work.

     And to specifically designate this unique participation of Mary, the "New Eve," with and under Jesus Christ, the "New Adam," as "Marian Coredemption," so as to define the singularity of that cooperation, hardly seems imprecise and ambiguous—anymore than it would be imprecise or ambiguous to the divine primacy of Jesus Christ to define the singular cooperation of the Blessed Virgin in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as Mother of God.

       The further objection that "the titles as proposed are ambiguous" must be seen, again, in light of the rich Papal Magisterial Teachings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Not only was the term "Coredemptrix" used under the pontificates of Pius X and Pius XI along with its contemporary usage by the present Holy Father, but the subsequent terms "Mediatrix" and "Advocate" and their roles have an even greater frequency of usage and teaching by the nineteenth and twentieth century Papal Magisterium.5  Not only are the terms "Mediatrix" and "Advocate" contained in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Lumen Gentium, n.62), but they are developed in great measure in the 1987 Papal Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), with the entire third section entitled and dedicated to the Church doctrine of "Maternal Mediation."6 

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