Cardinals Initiate Worldwide Cardinal-Bishop Petition
Five cardinals have invited every cardinal and bishop in the world to join them in petitioning Pope Benedict XVI to solemnly proclaim the Mother of Jesus as the "Spiritual Mother of humanity” as an ecumenical service of clarification to other religious traditions and to proclaim the full Christian truth about Mary.
An English copy of the letter which the five cardinals sent to all the world's cardinals and bishops in various languages on January 1, 2008, as well as a Latin “votum” or petition and its English translation has been released by His Eminence, Luis Cardinal Aponte Martínez, Fatima Symposium cardinal co-patron, with permission for publication (see below).
This initiative also intends to start an in-depth worldwide dialogue on Mary’s role in salvation for our time and builds upon the endorsement of over 500 Catholic cardinals and bishops for the petition for the definition of this potential fifth Marian dogma over the course of the past 15 years. Renowned contemporary Catholic leaders have also voiced their support, such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Mother Angelica, foundress of the worldwide Eternal Word Television Network, along with approximately 7 million petitions from Catholics worldwide.
Should this effort prove successful, a proclamation would constitute a historical event for the Church as only the fifth Marian dogma defined in its 2,000-year history.
The five cardinals, Their Eminences Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, India, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India; Luis Cardinal Aponte Martínez, Archbishop Emeritus of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India; Riccardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, Philippines; and Ernesto Cardinal Corrippio Ahumada, Cardinal Primate Emeritus of Mexico City, have jointly invited their fellow cardinals and bishops throughout the world to add their names to their own petition to the Holy Father, which has already been formally presented to Benedict XVI in private audience by Cardinal Toppo on June 3, 2006.
These five cardinals and their petition, in the form of a Latin votum, included the names and petitions of a number of cardinals and bishops who met at the renowned Marian Shrine in Fatima, Portugal, in May 2005 for a theological symposium on the role of the Virgin Mary as the "Unique Cooperator in the Redemption" (an expression of Pope John Paul II). The symposium ended with a commonly accepted and signed votum to Pope Benedict, which respectfully asks him to prayerfully consider declaring the existing Church doctrine on Mary as the spiritual mother of all peoples as a solemn definition or "dogma," which represents the highest level of recognition of a particular Christian doctrine as a Catholic truth. This definition of Mary as spiritual mother would include her three maternal roles as the human “Co-redemptrix” (which literally means “a woman with the Redeemer” but never on a level of equality with her divine son), “Mediatrix” or distributor of the graces of the redemption, and “Advocate” or principal intercessor to her Jesus Christ.
The votum emphasizes the rich ecumenical benefits that would come from a solemn definition of this role of Mary as humanity’s spiritual mother, as the “ultimate expression of doctrinal clarity at the service of our Christian and non-Christian brothers and sisters who are not in communion with Rome, and as well as for the greater understanding and appreciation of this revealed doctrine concerning the Mother of the Redeemer by the People of God at the outset of this third millennium of Christianity.”
The first major petition drive to the popes for the solemn definition of Mary's universal mediation of grace (a long-standing Catholic doctrine taught by the Roman pontiffs) came from Belgian Cardinal Mercier in 1915, at which time he received the positive support of hundreds of Catholic bishops. In the early 1920s, the petition was also strongly endorsed by Fr. Maximilian Kolbe (who was later canonized by Pope John Paul II), founder of the international Marian movement, Militia Immaculatae (“Army of the Immaculate”), and who offered his life in martyrdom in Auschwitz in 1941.
Cardinal Toppo, President of India’s Conference of Catholic Bishops and cardinal co-patron of the 2005 Fatima symposium stated in his address, “The title ‘co’ clarifies it all. She is in no way the Redemptrix of humanity, and yet by the will of God and her humble human co-operation, she truly is, and deserves to be called/designated/honoured as ‘Co-redemptrix.’”
Cardinal Aponte Martínez, also cardinal co-patron at the Fatima conference, offers the following comment in support of the present timeliness of this potential dogma by Benedict XVI: “I believe the time is now for the papal definition of the relationship of the Mother of Jesus to the each one of us, her earthly children, in her roles as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate. To solemnly proclaim Mary as the spiritual mother of all peoples is to fully and officially recognize her titles, and consequently to activate, to bring to new life the spiritual, intercessory functions they offer the Church for the New Evangelization, and for humanity in our serious present world situation.”
English Copy of Letter Sent
January 1, 2008
Dear Brother Eminences and Excellencies:
In May 2005, we, as cardinal co-patrons, sponsored a Mariological symposium convened on the subject of the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the work of human Redemption at the favored Fatima shrine in Portugal.
After extensive theological presentations delivered by a significant number of cardinals, bishops, and theologians, we concluded the symposium by enacting a votum to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. The votum reads as follows:
On June 7, 2006, our brother, Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, presented the above votum in Latin to His Holiness on behalf of all the cardinal and bishop participants at the 2005 Fatima Symposium, together with the published acta from the symposium. The Holy Father received the votum and the acta with an accentuated gratitude and his expressed intention to study carefully the acta.
We now write to you, brother cardinals and bishops, to inform you of this votum for the solemn definition of Our Lady as the Spiritual Mother of humanity and its essential roles, and respectfully request your own prayerful consideration regarding the possibility of adding your own esteemed assent to this votum to Our Holy Father. We have enclosed a copy of the original Latin votum for your examination and, if you felt so inspired by Our Lady, you would be free to sign and to forward it on to His Holiness.
Certainly, if it so pleased the Holy Father to proceed with this request, any final formation of the definition would in no manner be bound to the formulation of the enclosed votum, but rather left entirely to his unique charism as the Successor of Peter. It is also noteworthy that over the course of the past fifteen years, over 500 bishops have sent their request for this solemn definition to the Holy See, along with approximately 7 million petitions from the Catholic faithful worldwide.
We thank you for your prayerful consideration of this request on behalf of Our Lady, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles. May she guide you in your discernment of this matter to the wisdom of Jesus Christ, our divine Redeemer, through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, all leading to the fulfillment of the perfect will of our Heavenly Father.
With cordial best wishes in Jesus and Mary,
Luis Cardinal Aponte Martínez, Archbishop Emeritus of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India
Riccardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, Philippines
Ernesto Cardinal Corrippio Ahumada, Primate Emeritus of Mexico
Cardinal Co-sponsors of the Fatima Symposium on Marian Coredemption