Pope Francis on Wednesday said that Jesus entrusted the Virgin Mary to us as a Mother, “not as co-redeemer.”
Speaking at his general audience on March 24, the pope said that while Christians had always given Mary beautiful titles, it was important to remember that Christ is the only redeemer.
He was addressing a theological debate about whether the Church should issue a dogmatic definition declaring Mary “Co-Redemptrix,” in honor of her role in humanity’s salvation.
“Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross,” the pope noted.
“From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings. Even the first Latin antiphon — sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix: the Madonna who ‘covers,’ like a Mother, to whom Jesus entrusted us, all of us; but as a Mother, not as a goddess, not as co-redeemer: as Mother.”
He continued: “It is true that Christian piety has always given her beautiful titles, as a child gives his or her mamma: how many beautiful things children say about their mamma whom they love so much! How many beautiful things.”
“But we need to be careful: the things the Church, the saints, say about her, beautiful things, about Mary, subtract nothing from Christ’s sole Redemption. He is the only Redeemer. They are expressions of love like a child for his or her mamma — some are exaggerated. But love, as we know, always makes us exaggerate things, but out of love.”
The pope gave his address, dedicated to prayer in communion with Mary, in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions. The address was part of his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.
Noting that he was speaking on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which falls on March 25, he said: “Christ is the Mediator; Christ is the bridge that we cross to turn to the Father. He is the only Redeemer: there are no co-redeemers with Christ. He is the only one. He is the Mediator par excellence.”
Christ’s “one mediation,” he said, sheds light on the role of Mary.
“She occupies a privileged place in the lives of Christians, and therefore, in their prayer as well, because she is the Mother of Jesus,” he said.
Referring to a celebrated image of Mary in Bari Cathedral, southern Italy, he emphasized that the Virgin points the way to Jesus.
He said: “Her hands, her eyes, her behavior are a living ‘catechism,’ always indicating the hinge, she always points out the center: Jesus. Mary is completely directed toward Him to such an extent that we can say she is more disciple than Mother. The directions she gave at the wedding at Cana: ‘He: do whatever he will tell you.’ She always refers to Christ. She is the first disciple.”
He continued: “This is the role Mary fulfilled throughout her entire earthly life and which she forever retains: to be the humble handmaid of the Lord, nothing more. At a certain point in the Gospels, she almost seems to disappear; but then she reappears in the more crucial moments, such as at Cana, when her Son, thanks to her caring intervention, performs his first ‘sign,’ and then on Golgotha at the foot of the cross.”
He described how Christians began to pray to Mary, using expressions found in the Gospels, such as “full of grace” and “blessed are you among women.” The Council of Ephesus in AD 431 approved the title “Mother of God,” which was added to the Hail Mary prayer.
Reflecting on the line “now and at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary, he said: “Mary is always present at the bedside of her children when they depart this world. If someone is alone and abandoned, she is Mother, she is there, near, as she was next to her Son when everyone else abandoned him.”
“Mary was and is present in these days of the pandemic, near to the people who, unfortunately, have concluded their earthly journey all alone, without the comfort of or the closeness of their loved ones. Mary is always there next to us, with her maternal tenderness.”
Concluding his reflection, he said: “She listens as Mother. Just like, and more than, every good mother, Mary defends us from danger, she is concerned about us even when we are concentrated on our own things and lose a sense of the way, and when we put not only our health in danger, but also our salvation.”
“Mary is there, praying for us, praying for those who do not pray. To pray with us. Why? Because she is our Mother.”
In remarks at the end of the audience, the pope expressed sorrow at terrorist attacks in the West African state of Niger that have claimed 137 lives.
“Let us pray for the victims, for their families and for the entire population so that the violence suffered may not cause them to lose trust in the path of democracy, justice and peace,” he said.
He also conveyed his sympathies to people affected by flooding in the Australian state of New South Wales
He said: “I am near the people and the families affected once again by this calamity, especially those who saw their houses destroyed. I give encouragement to those who are doing everything possible to search for those who are missing and to bring aid.”
He also noted that World Tuberculosis Day falls on March 24, the day in 1882 when the German physician Robert Koch announced that he had identified the bacterium causing the infectious disease.
The pope said: “May this annual event foster a renewed interest in the treatment of this disease and increased solidarity toward those who suffer from it. Upon them and their families, I invoke the Lord’s consolation.”