Pope Francis on October 24, 2020, received in audience, in Paul VI Hall, the docents and students of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum in Rome, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Faculty’s foundation.
In his talk, he stressed the motherhood of Mary and the importance of women in the Church.
The Holy Father’s Address
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet you and congratulate you on the 70th anniversary of your Theological Faculty’s foundation! Thank you Father Chancellor for your warm words. Since its birth, the “Marianum” has been entrusted to the care of the Servants of Mary. Therefore, I wish for each one of you to live the service on the example of Mary, “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), in a Marian style, a style that will benefit Theology, the Church, and you so much.
We can ask ourselves, does Mariology serve the Church and the world today? The answer, obviously, is yes. To go to Mary’s school is to go to the school of faith and life. She is a teacher because She is a disciple, She teaches well the human and Christian alphabet. But there is also another aspect related to today. We are living in the time of Vatican Council II. No other Council in history has given Mariology so much space as that dedicated to it in chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium, which concludes and in a certain sense summarizes the entire Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. This tells us that the times we are living are Mary’s times. However, we need to rediscover Our Lady according to the Council’s perspective. As the Council has brought back the beauty of the Church by turning to the sources and removing the dust that had been deposited on her over the centuries, so the wonders of Mary will be able to be rediscovered by going to the heart of her mystery. Two elements emerge there, well evidenced by Scripture: She is mother and woman. The Church is also Mother and woman.
Mother, recognized by Elizabeth as “Mother of the Lord” (v. 43), the Theotokos is also Mother of all of us. In fact, to the disciple John, and in him to each one of us, the Lord said on the Cross: “Behold your Mother! (John 19:27).” In that salvific hour, Jesus was giving us his life and his Spirit; and He did not let his work be complete without giving us Our Lady, because He wants us to walk in life with a mother, rather, with the best of mothers (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 285). Saint Francis of Assisi loved her precisely because She was mother. It was said of him that he surrounded the Mother of the Lord Jesus with unspeakable love, by the fact that She made the Lord of Majesty our brother” (St. Bonaventure, Legenda Major, 9, 3: FF 1165). Our Lady made God our brother and, in as much as Mother, She can render the Church and the world more fraternal. The Church is in need of rediscovering Her maternal heart, which beats for unity, but our Earth is also in need of it, to become again the home of all Her children. Our Lady desires this. “She wants to give birth to a new world, where we are all brothers, where there is a place for every rejected one by our societies” (Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, 278). We are in need of maternity that generates and regenerates life with tenderness because only by giving, caring, and sharing is the human family held together. We think of a world without mothers; it has no future. Benefits and profit alone don’t give a future; rather, sometimes inequalities and injustices grow. Mothers, instead, make every child feel at home and they give hope.
Therefore, the Marianum is called to be a fraternal institution, not only through the good family atmosphere that distinguishes you but also by learning new possibilities of collaboration with other institutes, which will help to widen the horizons and to remain in step with the times. Sometimes there is fear to open thinking that specificities will be lost but when one gets involved to give life and generate the future one isn’t mistaken, because one acts as mothers do. And Mary is the Mother that teaches the art of encounter and of walking together. So it’s good that, as a great family, different theological and spiritual tradition converge at the Marianum, which contribute also to the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.
Our Lady — this is the other essential element — is a woman. Perhaps the most ancient Mariological datum of the New Testament says that the Saviour is “born of woman” (Galatians 4:4). Then, in the Gospel, Mary is the woman, the new Eve, who from Cana to Calvary intervenes for our salvation (cf. John 2:4; 19:26). Finally, She is the woman clothed with the sun who takes care of Jesus’ offspring (Cf. Revelation 12:17). As the Mother makes the Church a family, so woman makes us a people.
Not by chance popular piety draws naturally to Our Lady. It’s important that Mariology follows it with attention, promotes it, and at times purifies it, always remaining attentive to the “signs of the Marian times,” which run through our age. Among these is, in fact, the role of woman. But how many women don’t receive the dignity due to them! Woman, who brought God into the world, must be able to bring His gifts in history. There is a need for Her ingenuity and Her style. In particular, Mariology can contribute to bring to culture, also through art and poetry, beauty that humanizes and infuses hope. And it is called to seek more worthy spaces for woman in the Church, stemming from the common baptismal dignity. Because, as I have said, the Church is woman, as Mary is Mother, as Mary.
Father Rupnik has made a painting, which seems to be a painting of Our Lady, and it’s not. It seems that Our Lady is in the foreground and, instead, the message is: Our Lady is not in the foreground. She receives Jesus, and with Her hands, as steps make Him come down. It’s the synkatabasis of Christ through Our Lady: the condescension. And Christ is presented as a Child but Lord, with the Law in His hand. But also as Son of woman, weak, clinging to Our Lady’s mantle. This work of Father Rupnik is in fact a message. And, who is Mary for us? She who makes Christ come down for each one of us, Christ fullness of God, Christ man who makes Himself weak for us. Let us look at Our Lady thus: She who makes Christ enter, who makes Christ pass, who gives birth to Christ, and always remains woman. It’s so simple . . . And let us ask Our Lady to bless us. I will now give the Blessing to all of you, praying that we will always be able to have in us that spirit of children and brothers — children of Mary, children of the Church, brothers among us.