By Mark Miravalle
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, MAY 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On the 93rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary to three Portuguese children, Benedict XVI will address the world from this favored Marian shrine.
Amidst an unprecedented attack on the papacy in recent months, and in light of the July 13, 1917, Fatima prophecy that “the Holy Father will have much to suffer,” many wonder if this prophecy referred not only to the assassination attempt of John Paul II on the same anniversary in 1981, but also to the grossly unjust attacks being presently leveled against our own saintly Vicar of Christ.
“She alone can help you.” These words from Our Lady of Fatima speak also to the present crisis in the Church and the specific attack on the papacy. Many faithful believe that turning to Our Lady in this time of ecclesiastical crisis is the ultimate answer.
Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to confirm this at least in principle in his renowned 1984 “Ratzinger Report,” where he identifies the remedy to the ubiquitous crisis of faith and culture today by precisely “turning to Mary.”
In the minds of a significant number of cardinals, bishops, theologians and laity, the best defense for the papacy of Benedict XVI is a Marian offense.
On March 25 of this year, an international representation of numerous members of Catholic hierarchy, the theological community, and laity gathered at the Vatican Forum in Rome to voice their favor for a solemn definition of Our Lady’s spiritual motherhood of humanity, both for truth’s sake and as a Marian remedy for the grave woes presently facing the Church.
Organized by Inside the Vatican Magazine, this Roman “Day of Dialogue” on a fifth Marian dogma (presentations available on (www.insidethevatican.com) highlighted bishops from four continents, Catholic and Protestant theologians, and even Vatican ambassadors.
“We believe the fifth Marian Dogma will help protect us from disasters,” said Ambassador Mercedes Tuason, the ambassador from the Philippines to the Holy See.
Asian bishops at the Vatican Forum Dialogue raised a strong voice in favor of the Marian dogma as a powerful aid in the Christian evangelization of Asia, and in particular, China. Issues which have dominated, and to a large degree paralyzed, ecumenical dialogues in the first world regarding Mary (communion of saints, sola gratia, sola fide, etc.), were discussed as fundamentally irrelevant to the still unbaptized peoples of Asia.
“The Chinese symbol for love is a mother holding a child,” commented Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Philippines. He went on to explain that the concept of a mother bringing mercy and redemption to her children from a god is a standard and very acceptable idea in Asian culture. In fact, in some cases where an oriental belief system does not have a feminine intercessor between themselves and a god, they will invent one.
“We already have one,” stated Archbishop Arguelles, “in the person of Mary, co-redemptrix, mediatrix of all graces and advocate.”
Archbishop M. Chinnappa of Madras, India, confirmed this same Asian appeal of a mother in bringing God’s grace and mercy to humanity. He reported that multi-religious peoples of the world’s second largest country flock to Marian shrines because of the comfort they receive from the concept and the actual intercession of a mother.
The Indian Archbishop also referred to the enthusiastic reception he has received from Muslims, Hindus and Christians alike to his own repeated teachings of Our Lady’s role as the human race’s spiritual mother and of its solemn papal proclamation — an enthusiastically positive response which he has received not only in India, but in the other 10 countries in which he has preached and taught the need for a fifth Marian dogma.
The principal objection posed to the Marian definition over the last few years has been its potential effect on ecumenism, as several Christian bodies outside of communion with Rome would oppose any expression of papal infallibility, let alone a Marian definition.
In response, Anglican theologian, Dr. Judith Gentle, a member of Our Lady of Walsingham Mariological Society in England, referred to the potential Marian dogma by the Roman Pope as that which would constitute the actual remedy for the ecumenical difficulties we presently face.
“Far from being the obstacle,” remarked Gentle, “the entrance of a mother into the efforts to unite the family of Christ is precisely what is needed at this point in the ecumenical journey.” The Anglican theologian stated that she and many other “households of Christian faith” look to the “bishop of Rome” as the only person and office to effect this ecumenical remedy,” by proclaiming and thereby releasing the mother of Jesus to intercede for Christian unity, which is simply beyond our own human abilities.
Turning to Mary
As Benedict XVI seeks Our Lady’s intercession on the May 13 Fatima anniversary for our embattled ecclesial situation, we are reminded of a previous Pontiff’s turning to Mary during a historical time of grave challenge for the Church.
In 1848, Blessed Pius IX was forced to flee the Vatican under violent attack from socialist forces. While in exile and after consultation with some Marian prelates, the battered Pontiff concluded that the ultimate remedy for the papacy and the Church in crisis would be to solemnly define the Immaculate Conception, and by so doing, to bring Our Lady’s powerful intercession into the situation of ecclesiastical upheaval. Bl. Pius IX did define Our Lady’s dogma, and the papacy and the Church was soon restored to its previous respect and significantly beyond.
Some might argue that because of the existing attacks on the Holy Father, the last thing he should do is to spark more controversy with a Marian dogma on Mary’s spiritual motherhood. But Catholic history and faith combine to show that when the Church has faced its greatest battles, whether it be Roman persecutions in the early centuries, battles from foreign invaders at places like Lepanto and Vienna in later centuries, or secular and media assaults in the third millennium, going to Mary with conviction and fortitude effects a release of grace that empowers, protects, and sanctifies the Church in ways that only can only be described as supernatural.
Could we not be facing a parallel situation in our own day, with the world’s secular media and even some mistaken members of the Church are clamoring for the resignation of our beloved Holy Father amidst international ecclesiastical crisis?
Perhaps we need the same Marian remedy, when all human efforts of diplomacy and justice seem to be far from sufficient for the present crises facing the Church and the Papacy — a Marian proclamation which recognizes Mary’s roles of intercession and in so doing, brings them powerfully and historically into full action for our Church and for our Pope today.
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Mark Miravalle is a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Author of more than a dozen books on Mariology, and editor of “Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons,” he wrote “The Seven Sorrows of China” in 2007. He is married and has eight children.