Benedict XVI's Address to Pontifical Academies

«Mary … Is the Sign of Sure Hope and Consolation for the People of God»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to Wednesday to the members of the Pontifical Academies during their 15th Public Session, which reflected on the topic: «The Assumption of Mary, Sign of Consolation and Sure Hope.»

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To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

On the occasion of the 15th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, I am happy to give you my cordial greeting, which a gladly extend to the presidents and academics, in particular to you, Venerable Brother, who head the Council of Coordination. I also address my greeting to the Lord Cardinals, the bishops, the priests, the men and women religious, the gentlemen ambassadors and all the participants in this annual meeting.

Fifteen years ago, the Venerable John Paul II instituted the Council of Coordination and the Prize of the Pontifical Academies offering a significant encouragement and a consistent impulse to the development of their activities. Now, evaluating carefully all that has been done, it is opportune to foment from now on the renewal of each and all of the Pontifical Academies, so that they can offer their contribution, ever more effectively, to the Apostolic See and to the whole Church. Hence I ask you, Venerable Brother, to follow with particular care the course of each Institution, promoting, at the same time, a process of reciprocal support and growing collaboration.

The 15th Public Session was prepared by the International Pontifical Marian Academy and by the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate, which very opportunely have desired that in this solemn meeting the 60th anniversary be recalled of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary, proposing the theme: «The Assumption of Mary, Sign of Consolation and Sure Hope.» On Nov. 1, 1950, in fact, during a memorable Jubilee, the Venerable Pius XII, promulgating the apostolic constitution «Munificentissimus Deus,» proclaimed this dogma solemnly in St. Peter’s Square. A few years before, in 1946, Father Carlo Balic, O.F.M., had founded the International Marian Academy precisely to support and coordinate the Assumptionist movement.

In the difficult and delicate historical moment that followed the conclusion of World War II, with that solemn gesture, Pius XII wished to indicate not only to Catholics, but to all men and women of good will, the singular figure of Mary as model and paradigm of the new humanity redeemed by Christ: «It is to be hoped,» he said, «that all those who will meditate the glorious examples of Mary will be persuaded increasingly of the value of human life […] and that the luminous form be placed before everyone’s eyes of the lofty end to which souls and bodies are destined; finally, that faith in the bodily Assumption of Mary to Heaven make faith in our resurrection more firm and active» («Munificentissimus Deus,» AAS 42, 1950, 753-771). I consider these hopes most timely, and I also invite you all to allow yourselves to be guided by Mary to be heralds and witnesses of the hope that springs from contemplation of the mysteries of Christ, dead and risen for our salvation.

Mary, in fact, as Vatican Council II teaches in the dogmatic constitution «Lumen Gentium,» is the sign of sure hope and consolation for the People of God, pilgrim in history: «The mother of Jesus, now in heaven, glorified in body and soul, is the image and the first fruit of the Church which must have its fulfillment in the future age, and thus shines over the earth as a sign of sure hope and consolation for the People of God, journeying until it sees the day of the Lord (cf. 2 Peter 3:10)» (No. 68). In the encyclical letter «Spe Salvi,» dedicated to Christian hope, I could not help but remind of the particular role of Mary in supporting and guiding the way of believers toward the Heavenly homeland. I addressed her, invoking her as a Star of Hope for the Church and for the whole of humanity (cf. No. 49). Mary is the shining star of light and beauty, who proclaims and anticipates our future.

St. John Damascene, who dedicated to Mary’s Assumption three magnificent sermons, given in Jerusalem around the year 740, in the place tradition indicates as Mary’s Tomb, said this: «Thy soul did not descend to Limbo, neither did thy flesh see corruption. Thy pure and spotless body was not left in the earth, but the abode of the Queen, of God’s true Mother, was fixed in the heavenly kingdom alone.» (Homily I on the Dormition: PG 96, 719).

The «singer of Mary,» St. Bernard of Clairvaux, along with many of the Latin West, echoes the previous voice of the Eastern Church, when St. Bernard evokes the Assumption thus: «Our Queen has preceded us; she has preceded us and has been received very festively, so that with confidence the servants can follow their Lady saying: Take us with you, we run in the odor of your perfumes (Ct 1,3). Our pilgrim humanity sent its Advocate ahead that, being Mother of the Judge and Mother of mercy, can treat with devotion and efficacy the cause of our salvation. Our earth has sent today to heaven a precious gift so that, giving and receiving, they join the human and the divine in a happy exchange of friendship, the earthly to the heavenly, the lowest to the highest […] She is the Queen of Heaven, she is merciful, she is the Mother of the Only-begotten Son of God» (In assumptione B.M.V., Sermo I: PL 183,415).

Hence, following that via pulchritudinis that the Servant of God Paul VI indicated as fecund itinerary of theological and Mariological research, I would like to note the profound syntony between theological and mystical thought, the liturgy, Marian devotion and the works of art that, with the splendor of colors and shapes, sing the mystery of the Assumption of Mary and her heavenly glory together with her Son. Among the latter, I invite you to admire two of them that are particularly significant in Rome: the mosaics of the apse of the Marian Basilicas of St. Mary Major and Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Theological and spiritual reflection, liturgy, Marian devotion, and artistic representation truly form a whole, a complete and effective message, capable of arousing the wonder of eyes, of touching the heart and of enticing the intelligence to a more profound understanding of the mystery of Mary in which we see our destiny reflected clearly and our hope proclaimed.

Therefore, I take advantage of this occasion to invite experts in theology and Mariology to follow the via pulchritudinis, and I hope that, also in our days, thanks to a greater collaboration between theologians, liturgists and artists, incisive and effective messages can be offered to the admiration and contemplation of all.

To encourage all those who wish to make their own contribution to the promotion and realization of a new Christian humanism, taking up the proposal formulated by the Council of Coordination, I am happy to assign ex aequo the Prize of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academies to the Marian Academy of India, young and active Marian-Mariological Society with headquarters in Bangalore, India — represented by its president the Revd. Kulandaisamy Rayar — and to professor Luis Alberto Esteves dos Santos Casimiro for his powerful doctoral dissertation entitled «A Anunciacao do Senhor na pintura quinhentista portuguesa (1500-1550): Analise geometrica, iconografica e significado iconologico.»

Moreover, I wish that, as a sign of appreciation and encouragement, the Medal of the Pontificate be offered to the «Gen Verde» Group, expression of the Focolare Movement, for its artistic commitment strongly permeated by evangelical values and open to dialogue between peoples and cultures.

Wishing you, finally, an ever more passionate commitment in your respective fields of activity, I entrust each one of you and your work to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, the Tota Pulchra, the Star of Hope, and impart from my heart to you, Lord
Cardinal, and to all those present a special Apostolic Blessing.

In the Vatican, Dec. 15, 2010


[Translation by ZENIT]
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