Earlier this year, the International Marian Association submitted a request to Pope Francis, asking for the public recognition of the title of Mary as “Co-Redemptrix with Jesus the Redeemer.”
The 10 page document was submitted by the Theological Commission of
the International Marian Association, a group of more than 100
theologians, bishops, priests, religious, and lay leaders from over 20
countries dedicated to the “full truth and love of Mary, Mother of
It comes during the 100th year anniversary of the Marian
apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.
The significance of the request, if it were to receive approval, is
that the faithful would be given further clarity on Mary’s unique role
in cooperation with Christ in the work of redemption, Dr. Robert
Fastiggi, Professor of Mariology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit,
told EWTN News.
“I think many people sense the spread of evil in the world and see
the importance of highlighting Mary’s role as spiritual Mother,” Dr.
Fastiggi said in e-mail comments.
“A papal statement on Marian coredemption would deepen our
understanding of Mary’s role as the New Eve who collaborates with her
Son, the New Adam, ‘in giving back supernatural life to souls,’” he
added, referring to the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium.
The title can be traced back to the 10th century, when some Marian
litanies included the title of Mary as Redemptrix, along with her son.
It was a development of the idea of Mary as the “New Eve,” a Marian
title that has been used since the 2nd century. The prefix of “co-” was
added by the 15th century, to clarify that Mary was not the Redeemer,
but rather someone who uniquely cooperated in the work of redemption.
“The Co-Redemptrix title never places Mary on a level of equality
with Jesus Christ, the only divine Redeemer, as to do so would
constitute both heresy and blasphemy,” the Association stated in a press
release announcing the request.
“The Co-Redemptrix title is meaningless without Jesus the Redeemer,
and in itself focuses upon the Cross of Jesus Christ. Mary Co-Redemptrix
proclaims to the world that suffering is redemptive when united to the
sufferings of Christ.”
After the prefix was added, title continued to catch on, so much so
that the 17th century considered the “golden age” of the title of Mary
as Co-Redemptrix. Still, it didn’t receive magisterial recognition until
1908, when the Sacred Congregation for Rites used it in a decree
elevating the rank of the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
Since then, it has been referenced multiple times by the Magisterium,
including during the second Vatican council, which ultimately decided
against any formal recognition of the title in the document Lumen
“The term, however was not rejected because it was false. In the
praenotanda or explanatory note that accompanied the first Marian schema
of 1962, we are told that, ‘Certain terms and expressions used by Roman
Pontiffs have been omitted, which, although most true in themselves (in
se verissima), may be difficult for the separated brethren (as in the
case of the Protestants) to understand,’” Dr. Fastiggi explained.
“The Council, therefore, recognized the importance of further
development and clarification on certain points of Marian doctrine. A
papal statement on Marian co-redemption would provide greater clarity on
Mary’s unique cooperation with Christ in the work of redemption and the
mediation of grace. It would also open the way for many graces in the
life of the Church.”
Popes often grant formal papal recognition to help deepen the
theological understanding of the faithful, such as when Bl. Pope Paul VI
proclaimed Mary as “Mother of the Church” in 1964.
“The invocation of Mary under various titles like ‘Mother of God’ and
‘Help of Christians’ reinforces Mary’s role in the mystery of
salvation,” Dr. Fastiggi noted.
Unfortunately, Dr. Fastiggi said, many Catholics are unaware of the
recognition that the title “Co-Redemptrix” has already received so much
informal recognition from the magisterium.
“Some are even under the impression that we are not allowed to call
Mary ‘Co-Redemptrix’ — even though two popes, namely Pius XI (3 times) and
St. John Paul II (at least 6 times), have publicly referred to Mary as
‘Co-Redemptrix,’” he said.
And while there are concerns that the title could further confuse
Protestants and others who disagree with Catholic teaching on Mary, Dr.
Fastiggi believes a formal recognition of the title would actually help
with further clarification.
“A formal papal statement would also serve the cause of ecumenism
because it would help other Christians know that the Catholic Church
clearly distinguishes between the saving work of Christ as the one
Savior and Mediator (1 Tim 2: 5–6) and the Blessed Mother’s secondary,
dependent but utterly unique cooperation with Christ in the work of
redemption and the mediation of grace,” he said.
In a press release announcing the request, the International Marian
Association said: “We believe that a public acknowledgement of Mary’s
true and continuous role with Jesus in the saving work of Redemption
would justly celebrate the role of humanity in God's saving plan; foster
greater devotion to the Mother of God; and lead to the release of
historic graces through an even more powerful exercise of Our Lady’s
maternal roles of intercession for the Church and for all humanity
While the request could lead to a new Marian dogma, Dr. Fastiggi said
the Association would likely be happy with any form of formal papal
recognition of the title.
“The members of Association realize that it’s up to the Holy Spirit
to guide the Holy Father with regard to this petition. In this regard,
prayer and trust are essential,” he said.
“We trust in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, and the prayers of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our spiritual Mother. May God’s will be