Pope Francis’ homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 has been the source of some discussion and controversy. One article carried the headline: “Pope calls idea of declaring Mary co-redemptrix ‘foolishness’.” Another said: “Francis: Mary is not co-redemptrix, new dogmas are not useful.” Still another headline read: “Pope: Mary as Co-redemptrix is ‘Foolishness’,” and one article claimed that Pope Francis has set himself against the traditional doctrine of the Church about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Professor Roberto de Mattei has used the homily as supposed evidence of Christological errors held by Pope Francis. The most extreme reaction, though, was by Archbishop Viganò, who compared the Holy Father’s alleged opposition to Mary to the serpent’s enmity toward Eve. The Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, has written a vigorous rebuttal to the unbalanced assertions of Archbishop Viganò, and he has provided clear evidence that Pope Francis affirms all the Marian doctrines that Viganò claims the Holy Father denies.

Because I teach Mariology and have written or been cited about proposals for a new Marian dogma, several people have asked for my reaction to the Pope’s December 12 homily. My reaction corresponds to a statement and an article published by Dr. Mark Miravalle, the President of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, a group which has received support from 8 million Catholics—including 800 bishops—for a new dogma proclaiming Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate The key point made by Dr. Miravalle is that there is nothing in the Holy Father’s December 12 homily that forbids calling Mary co-redemptrix and there is nothing that rules out further study and theological development on Marian coredemption. Dr. Miravalle also notes that the Holy Father’s reference to Mary as “the Mother of all” (Madre de todos) affirms the Blessed Mother’s “direct and maternal relationship with humanity as our spiritual mother, and hence, one could argue, the theological appropriateness of a solemn definition or ‘dogma’ of Mary as the spiritual mother of all peoples.”

In order to understand what Pope Francis said in his December 12 homily, it’s important to distinguish four separate issues: 1) the Guadalupe homily itself; 2) the doctrine of Marian coredemption; 3) the title “co-redemptrix; and 4) proposals for new Marian dogmas.

The December 12, 2019 homily

Pope Francis delivered his homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter’s Basilica in Spanish and in a spontaneous off-the cuff manner. Here is a link to the text of the original homily, and here is a link to a video of the Mass. The Holy Father’s homily begins around 22 minutes into the video and ends around 29 minutes. The one reference to the title “co-redemptrix” comes in the fifth paragraph, which reads: “Faithful to her Master, who is her Son, the unique Redeemer, she never wanted to take anything away from her Son. She never introduced herself as ‘co-redemptrix.’ No. disciple.” This is my translation of the Spanish: “Fiel a su Maestro, que es su Hijo, el único Redentor, jamás quiso para sí tomar algo de su Hijo. Jamás se presentó como co-redentora. No, discípula.”

Pope Francis wishes to emphasize the humility of the Virgin Mary in her apparition at Guadalupe. He is absolutely correct. The Blessed Mother never introduced herself as “co-redemptrix” at Guadalupe; nor did she introduce herself as the Immaculate Conception as she did at Lourdes in 1858. At Guadalupe, Mary identifies herself to St. Juan Diego as “the ever perfect Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God” —as Pope Francis made clear in his homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2014. The Virgin Mary is indeed the disciple of the Lord, but the affirmative sense is not the exclusive sense. Our Lady of Guadalupe also reveals herself as the ever-virgin Mother of God, corresponding to the two Marian dogmas recognized by the Church in 1531, the year of the Guadalupe apparitions.

There is nothing in Pope Francis’s reference to “co-redemptrix” that suggests it is a false, foolish, or forbidden title. In his Guadalupe homily of 2014, he says: “Let us implore the Most Holy Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of God, the Queen and My Lady, ‘my maiden, my little one’, as St Juan Diego called her, and with all the loving names by which we turn to Her in popular piety” (emphasis added).” Since Mary has been addressed as “co-redemptrix” in popular piety, approved prayers—as well as by saints and popes—we should assume that Pope Francis also includes this title among the loving names by which the Madonna is invoked.

The Holy Father’s reference to foolishness comes in the eleventh paragraph of the homily, six paragraphs after the reference to “co-redemptrix.” This paragraph reads: “When they come to us with stories about having to declare this, or make this or that other dogma, let’s not get lost in foolishness. Mary is woman, she is Our Lady, Mary is the Mother of her Son and of the Holy Mother hierarchical Church and Mary is mestiza, the woman of our peoples, but she also made God mestizo” (my translation). The Spanish reads: “Cuando nos vengan con historias de que había que declararla esto, o hacer este otro dogma o esto, no nos perdamos en tonteras: María es mujer, es Nuestra Señora, María es Madre de su Hijo y de la Santa Madre Iglesia jerárquica y María es mestiza, mujer de nuestros pueblos, pero que mestizó a Dios.”

The phrase “pero que mestizó a Dios” (but she also made God mestizo) uses the word, mestizó, as a verb, and it refers back to the prior paragraph in which Pope Francis refers to the great mystery of Christ, the Son of Mary, “as true God and true man.” Mary is mestiza (racially mixed) in order to be the Mother of all people and the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The Divine Word became flesh by assuming a human nature from the Virgin Mary. In doing so, He joined humanity and divinity together in his one divine Person. Pope Francis rightly says: “this is the great mystery” (ese es el gran misterio). It’s the mystery of God as true God and true man in his Son (verdadero Dios y verdadero hombre, en su Hijo). This is the language of authentic Christology as taught by the Council of Chalcedon. It’s difficult to understand why Professor de Mattei wishes to associate Pope Francis with the Monophysite heresy of Eutyches—which denied the two natures of Christ after the Incarnation—or the kenotic heresy—which held that Jesus, as the Incarnate Word, emptied himself of divinity during his earthly life. When Pope Francis says that Mary made God mestizo, he’s not talking about a blending or mixing of the divine and human natures in Christ but of God becoming true God and true man in the Incarnate Word.

When Pope Francis warns us not to get lost in foolishness he’s referring, I believe, to an over preoccupation with new dogmatic proclamations that distract us from what is essential about Mary. She is woman, the Mother of all, and the Mother of the Church. Some have interpreted the Holy Father’s reference to “foolishness” (tonteras) as evidence that he believes it is foolishness to call Mary the co-redemptrix or to ask for a formal definition of her as such. Pope Francis, however, never says it its foolishness to call Mary co-redemptrix nor does he explicitly say it is foolishness to ask for a formal definition of her coredemptive role. Earlier in the homily, he refers to the impulse of Christian piety to praise Mary with new titles. Pope Francis, though, sees these titles as expressions of the love of the people of God towards the Blessed Virgin. These titles, however, do not take away Mary’s essential identity as the Mother-disciple. In a similar way, Pope Francis wishes us to avoid the “foolishness” of being so concerned with new Marian dogmas that we become distracted from loving Mary as our Mother, Our Lady, and the Mother of the Church. This warning is important, but it does not, in itself, rule out subsequent developments in Marian doctrines by either Pope Francis or future popes. It also does not forbid calling Mary the co-redemptrix because this term, when properly understood, neither takes nor adds anything to Christ, the one Redeemer (cf. Lumen Gentium, 62).

Different popes emphasize different aspects of Marian doctrine and devotion. Leo XIII published 12 encyclicals on the Rosary. St. Pius X spoke of Mary as the aqueduct of all grace (from St. Bernard of Clairvaux) and the neck who unites the Church to Christ (from St. Bernardine of Siena). Pope Francis wishes to highlight Mary as our Mother and the Mother of the Church. This is manifested by a book entitled She is My Mother: Pope Francis Encounters Mary, based on some interviews of the Holy Father by Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, now secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. It is also expressed by Pope Francis’ approval of the obligatory memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church for the Monday following Pentecost.

Pope Francis does not, I believe, wish to suppress any of the titles by which Mary has been traditionally invoked. On October 7, 2019, he approved a decree adding the optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto to the General Roman Calendar. This decree encourages the recitation of the Litany of Loreto which extols Mary by such titles as “Mother of Divine Grace,” Mother of mercy,” Virgin most powerful,” “Cause of our joy,” “Gate of Heaven,” and Refuge of sinners.” In light of this new memorial, it would be wrong to suggest that Pope Francis is trying to have a minimalist Mariology that reduces the Blessed Virgin simply to mother-disciple.

The Doctrine of Marian Coredemption

The doctrine of Marian coredemption teaches that the Blessed Virgin, by the will of God, cooperated in a unique and singular manner in the work of redemption with and under her divine Son. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God, in his omnipotence, could have redeemed the human race in many ways, but He chose to become man by being conceived and born of a woman. He saw this as the most fitting or appropriate means for redeeming the human race (Summa theologiae [ST] III q. 1 a. 2). Because God chose to redeem the human race by becoming man, He needed a Mother in order to assume a human nature and become like us in all things but sin (cf. Heb 4:15). The Church teaches that “God ineffable … from the beginning and before the ages, chose and ordained a mother for his only begotten Son, from whom he would become incarnate and be born in the blessed fullness of time” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, Dec. 8, 1854; Denz.-H, 2800). The Blessed Virgin Mary, therefore, was “predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God” (Lumen Gentium [LG] 61). The Blessed Virgin was in this way “above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord” (LG, 61).

The Church Fathers saw the analogy between Mary and Eve. As Eve was the “co-peccatrix” with Adam in the fall, so Mary, as the New Eve, is the coredemptrix with Christ, the New Adam, in redemption. Vatican II, in Lumen Gentium, 56, makes reference to this analogy by citing St. Irenaeus, who states that Mary, “being obedient, became the cause of salvation (causa salutis) for herself and for the whole human race.” St. Thomas Aquinas, in ST III q. 30 a. 1, states that Mary spoke in place of all human nature (loco totius humanae naturae) when she gave her consent to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The Church also teaches that Mary at the foot of the cross, suffering in a profound way with her only-begotten Son, “associated herself with a mother’s heart with Christ’s sacrifice,” and lovingly consented “to the immolation of this victim which she herself had brought forth” (LG, 58). Thus, although Christ is the one Savior of the human race, Mary, by God’s will, associated herself with his sacrificial offering in a unique and singular way.

The recognition of Mary’s maternal union with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross developed during the Middle Ages and gradually came to be taught by the Church’s magisterium. St. Pius X, in his 1904 encyclical, Ad Diem Illum, taught that, because of Mary’s singular association with Christ in “the work of human salvation” (humanae salutis opus), “she merits for us de congruo … what Christ merits for us de condigno” (Denz.-H, 3370). Pius X’s successor, Benedict XV, in his 1918 letter, Inter Sodalicia, wrote that Mary, renounced her maternal rights and, “as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she, with Christ, redeemed mankind” (AAS 10 [1919] p. 182). In his 1984 apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris, John Paul II says that “it was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view, but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world” (no. 25).

These popes do not mean that Christ, as the divine Savior, needed Mary’s offering in any absolute sense. They do, however, believe that God freely chose to associate Mary in the work of redemption in a way that transcends the cooperation of the rest of the faithful (cf. Col 1:24, 2 Cor 4: 9-12 and CCC, 2008). In his 1954 encyclical, Ad Caeili Reginam, Pius XII teaches that Mary assisted in our redemption “by giving of her own substance, by freely offering him for us, by her singular desire and petition for, and active interest in, our salvation” (Denz.-H, 3914). Pius XII goes on to describe Mary as “a partner in the redemption of the human race (redimendi generis humani consors)” (Denz.-H, 3915).

There is nothing in Pope Francis’s homily of December 12 that rejects Marian coredemption. From prior statements of his, it’s clear that he affirms this doctrine. In his morning meditation for the Solemnity of the Annunciation in 2016, Pope Francis states: “Today is the celebration of the ‘yes’… Indeed, in Mary’s ‘yes’ there is the ‘yes’ of all of salvation history and there begins the ultimate ‘yes’ of man and of God: there God re-creates, as at the beginning, with a ‘yes’, God made the earth and man, that beautiful creation: with this ‘yes’ I come to do your will and more wonderfully he re-creates the world, he re-creates us all”. Pope Francis recognizes Mary’s “yes” as an expression of her active role in salvation history—a role that we can call coredemptive. During his January 26, 2019 vigil with young people in Panama, the Holy Father spoke of Mary as “the most influential woman in history.” He also referred to the Blessed Virgin as the “influencer of God.” Mary influenced God by saying yes to his invitation and by trusting in his promises.

Pope Francis also affirms Mary’s union with the salvific mission of Christ up to his death on Cross and in the life of the Church. In his general audience of October 23, 2013, he notes that every action of the Blessed Virgin “was carried out in perfect union with Jesus. This union finds its culmination on Calvary: here Mary is united to the Son in the martyrdom of her heart and in the offering of his life to the Father for the salvation of humanity. Our Lady shared in the pain of the Son and accepted with him the will of the Father, in that obedience that bears fruit, that grants the true victory over evil and death.” The Holy Father also points out that “Mary’s ‘yes’, already perfect from the start, grew until the hour of the Cross. There her motherhood opened to embrace every one of us, our lives, so as to guide us to her Son.” Here we see Pope Francis affirming not only Mary’s fruitful participation in Christ’s suffering and sacrifice on the Cross but also her universal spiritual motherhood that embraces every one of us.

Other statements of Pope Francis show that he recognizes Mary’s central role in salvation history. In his November 21, 2013 address to some Camaldolese Benedictine Nuns he exclaims: “We owe so much to this Mother! She is present at every moment in the history of salvation, and in her we see a firm witness to hope. She, the mother of hope, sustains us in times of darkness, difficulty, discouragement, of seeming defeat or true human defeat.” In an impromptu address given to the Servants of Mary on October 25, 2019, Pope Francis affirms Mary’s central role in the work of redemption. He tells the Servants of Mary that their founders “left everything to become servants, servants of Our Lady, because they understood the role of Our Lady in redemption, a role that so often the so-called ‘modern’ theologies forget. But Our Lady brought us Jesus! And your Founders understood this, they understood and they became servants. “

Pope Francis likewise affirms Mary’s role in the mediation of grace. In his prayer of December 8, 2017 he refers to the Blessed Virgin as “Mother of grace and mercy” whose “open hands … let the Lord’s grace come down to the earth.” He has also referred to Mary as “auxiliatrix” and as the “Queen of the Saints and the Gate of Heaven.”

All of these references—which can be multiplied— show that Pope Francis accepts and affirms Catholic teaching on Marian coredemption and the mediation of grace. He clearly sees Mary’s “yes” as a central moment in salvation, history and he recognizes her union with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as spiritually fruitful. In his August 13, 2019 letter to the people of Genoa on the first anniversary of the terrible collapse of the Morandi Bridge he points them to Mary under the Cross suffering with her Son: “But I would also like to tell you that Jesus on the Cross was not alone. Under that scaffold, there was his mother, Maria. Stabat Mater, Mary was under the Cross, to share the suffering of the Son. We are not alone, we have a Mother who from Heaven looks at us with love and is close to us. Let us cling to her and say to her: ‘Mother!’ as a child does when he is afraid and wants to be comforted and reassured.”

The title Co-redemptrix

During the Middle Ages Mary began to be referred to as the “redemptrix.” In the 10th century, a French hymnal included these words addressed to Mary: “Holy redemptrix of the world pray for us.” The term “redemptrix” was understood in subordination to Christ, the Redeemer just as mediatrix was understood in subordination to Christ, the one mediator (cf. 1 Tim 2:5). By the fourteenth century, however, the prefix “co” from the Latin cum (with) was added to make it clear that Mary’s role in redemption was with and under Christ, the Redeemer. A good overview of the uses of the title “co-redemptrix” by saints and other Catholic writers can be found here.

From the mid-1700s to the mid-1900s, the Catholic Magisterium began to provide increasing support for Marian coredemption and her mediation of grace. The Holy Office in 1747, however, rejected an Italian bishop’s request to add “Blessed Virgin Coredemptrix of the Entire Human Race” to the prayers for the Stations of the Cross. In the early 20th century, however, this attitude changed. During the pontificate of Pius X (r. 1903–1914) the Marian title, co-redemptrix, received official magisterial approval thus reversing the 1747 decision of the Holy Office. In 1908 the Sacred Congregation for Rites referred to Mary as “the merciful Co-redemptrix of the human race” (Acta Sanctae Sedis [ASS] 41 [1908], p. 409). In 1913, the Holy Office approved a prayer invoking Mary as “our Co-redemptrix” (AAS 5 [1913], p. 364). In 1914 the same Holy Office gave approval to a prayer appealing to Mary as “the Co-redemptrix of the human race” (AAS 6 [1914], p. 108). Pope Pius XI publicly referred to Mary as co-redemptrix on three separate occasions and John Paul II used the title at least six times. Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins provides a good overview of these papal references to Mary as co-redemptrix here.

In the preparatory phase of Vatican II about 300–500 bishops asked for a definition or formal statement of Marian mediation and 54 asked for a definition of Mary as co-redemptrix. Pope St. John XXIII, however, made it clear that the Council would not be seeking to proclaim new dogmas.

A draft prepared in advance for the Council spoke of Mary as co-redemptrix, but the fathers of Vatican II decided to omit the term from what would become chapter VIII of Lumen gentium. 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. Among such words the following may be enumerated: ‘Coredemptrix of the human race’ [St. Pius X, Pius XI]; ‘Reparatrix of the whole world’ [Leo XIII] … etc.” (Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Volumen I, Periodus Prima, Pars IV [Vatican City, 1971], p. 99).

The title co-redemptrix, however, appears in two footnotes of the 1962 schema. Footnote 11 states that ‘the compassion of Mary has a connection with the redemption in such a way that she may rightly be called co-redemptrix’ (Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Volumen I, Periodus Prima, Pars IV, 1971: 104). In the 1962 schema there was also a lengthy footnote explaining the meaning of terms such as Meditatrix and Coredemptrix as applied to Mary.

The 1962 Marian schema formed the basis for chapter eight of Lumen Gentium, but the final conciliar text did not include the two footnotes on the title co-redemptrix. Even though the title co-redemptrix is not used, some theologians such as Jean Galot, S.J and Georges Cottier, O.P., believe that Lumen Gentium affirms the doctrine of Marian coredemption without using the title (see Galot in La Civilità Cattolica [1994] III: 236-237 and Cottier, in L’Osservatore Romano, June 4, 2002).

As mentioned above, Pius XI and John Paul II referred to Mary as “co-redemptrix” in public settings, but other recent popes have not. Pope Pius XII referred to Mary as “co-redemptrix” during a Holy Hour at Lourdes in 1935, but he never used the title publicly during his pontificate. There is a difference, though, between not using the title and rejecting the title. We first need to consider the canonized saints who have referred to Mary as co-redemptrix such as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (d. 1917), St. Maximilian Kolbe (d. 1941), St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (d. 1942), St. Pio of Pietrelcina (d. 1968), and St. Teresa of Calcutta (d. 1997). There have also been some approved religious communities that are dedicated to Mary as co-redemptrix. Mention can be made of the Congregazione Figlie Maria SS. Corredentrice, founded in Catania, Italy in 1953 and approved in 1964; the Pia Associazione di Maria SS. Corredentrice, approved by the Archbishop of Reggio Calabria, Italy in 1984; the Hijas de Maria Immaculada y Corredentora (Lima, Peru), founded in 1978 and approved in 1980; the Instituto de Misioneras de Maria Corredentora (Ecuador), founded in 1964 and approved in 1969; and the Associación de Fieles al Servicio de María Corredentora y Reina de la Paz (Venezuela): founded and approved in 1992 by the Archbishop of Barquisimeto, Venezuela. It should also be noted that the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X [SSPX] located in Moreno, Buenos Aires, Argentina is named Seminario Nuestra Señora Corredentora (Seminary of Our Lady Co-redemptrix). As is known, Pope Francis always maintained a cordial relationship with the Society of St. Pius X in his native Argentina, and he is committed to integrating the Society officially into the life of the Catholic Church. To my knowledge, he has never objected to the name of this SSPX seminary.

Several recent cardinals have expressed reservations about the term “co-redemptrix.” In his conversation with the German journalist, Peter Seewald, then Cardinal Ratzinger stated that “co-redemptrix” departs too much from the language of Scripture and the Fathers and other titles better express what the term signifies (see God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, trans. Henry Taylor. Ignatius Press, 2002, p. 306). Cardinal Ratzinger, though, was speaking as a private theologian and not in his official capacity as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has spoken in an even more critical way about the term “co-redemptrix.” In his interview with Fr. Carlos Granados published as The Cardinal Müller Report, the German cardinal warned theologians and preachers about “falsely exaggerating per excessum” by “attributing to the Virgin what is not attributable to her (for example, the Church, despite Mary’s privileged position on the work of salvation, does not call her ‘co-redeemer’, because the only Redeemer is Christ and she herself has been redeemed sublimiore modo, as Lumen gentium [no. 53] ( The Cardinal Müller Report trans. Richard Goodyear, Ignatius Press, 2017, 133). I sent Cardinal Müller a seven page letter providing examples of official Church approval of the title “co-redemptrix.” Unless he believes the Holy Office and two popes do not speak for the Church, it’s difficult to understand how he can claim the Church does not call Mary “co-redemptrix” (corredentora in the original Spanish interview).

Some people mistakenly believe that the term “co-redemptrix” implies equality between Jesus and Mary in the work of redemption. Nothing, though, could be further from the truth. Jesus is never spoken of as the “Co-redeemer” with Mary, but only as “the Redeemer.” The prefix “co” comes the Latin, “cum” (with) and, in this context, it does not suggest equivalence. Parents are called “co-creators” with God, but their cooperation in bringing forth new life does not make them “creators” equal to God. In a similar way, St. Paul says that we a God’s “co-workers” in 1 Cor 3:9, but this does not mean that our work is in anyway equivalent to that of God.

Proposals for new Marian dogmas

After the definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, there have been a number of requests and movements in favor of new Marian dogmas. In the early 20th century, Cardinal Mercier of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium made several attempts to have Mary defined as Mediatrix of all graces (see Gloria Falcão Dodd, The Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace [New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2012). Since the 1990s, Dr. Mark Miravalle of Franciscan University of Steubenville has been active in seeking episcopal and popular support in favor of a dogmatic definition of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate within the context of the Blessed Virgin’s universal spiritual motherhood. I provide an overview of these various petitions in an article published in La Stampa’s Vatican Insider this past October in both English and Italian. As of now, none of the petitions have resulted in a new Marian dogma. They have, however, brought the consideration of Mary as co-redemptrix, mediatrix of all graces, and universal spiritual Mother into greater focus among both theologians and the faithful.

Pope Francis and Mary Co-redemptrix

In light of Pope Francis’ December 12 homily and his prior Marian teachings, I would offer the following conclusions: 1) Pope Francis is correct in saying that Mary never introduced herself as co-redemptrix in her 1531 apparitions at Guadalupe. 2) There is clear evidence that Pope Francis accepts the doctrine of Marian coredemption even though he does not speak of Mary as the co-redemptrix; 3) Although Pope Francis has never identified Mary as the co-redemptrix, there is no evidence—either in his December 12, 2019 homily or in prior statements—that he forbids the use of the title or even that he considers the title inappropriate. 4) The paragraph in which Pope Francis refers to “foolishness” in his 2019 Guadalupe homily does not mention the title co-redemptrix explicitly. The most that might be claimed is that he considers petitions for new Marian dogmas to be foolishness, but even this relies on an interpretive inference rather than a direct statement. I believe Pope Francis is merely warning us that an over-preoccupation with new Marian declarations and dogmas can lead to foolishness if we lose sight of Mary’s essential identity as woman, disciple, and mother. There is nothing in his December 12 homily that precludes further doctrinal development on Marian coredemption either by Pope Francis himself or future popes.

Those who are using the Holy Father’s 2019 Guadalupe homily as evidence of his opposition to Catholic Marian doctrine seem to be motivated more by their hostility to Pope Francis than by anything said in the homily. Pope Francis is deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In his December 12, 2019 Guadalupe homily, he spoke of the Marian principle that “materializes” the Church and transforms her into the Holy Mother Church. In his December 5, 2014 Address to the International Theological Commission he referred to the Madonna as “the teacher of authentic theology (maestra dell’autentica teologia), and in his January 1, 2015 homily for the Solemnity of the Mary as Mother of God, he made it clear that “we cannot understand Jesus without his Mother” (non si può capire Gesù senza sua Madre). More recently, in his December 4, 2019 message to the Pontifical Academies, he highlighted the importance of the study of Mariology for understanding culture in light of the 60th anniversary of the institution of the Pontifical Marian Academy International by St. John XXIII.

Pope Francis’ present reluctance to have any new Marian dogmas in no way shows he is opposed to Marian doctrine and devotion. If this were the case, we would need to conclude that all of the popes since the definition of the Assumption in 1950 have been anti-Marian because they have not acted on petitions for new Marian dogmas. We should give thanks to God that Pope Francis is so deeply devoted to Mary as his mother, our mother, and the Mother of the Church. We must not forget that in the first year of his pontificate, Pope Francis made formal acts of consecration to Our Lady of Aparecida (July 24, 2013) and Our Lady of Bonaria (September 22, 2013) as well as a formal act of entrustment to Our Lady of Fatima (October 13, 2013). Those who attack Pope Francis need to realize that they are attacking a Roman Pontiff who has consecrated himself, the Church, and the world to our heavenly Mother.


The author would like to thank Dave Armstrong for providing some of the references for this article.

Image attribution: By A. Davey from Where I Live Now: Pacific Northwest – The Virgin Mary, Uploaded by Elitre, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21919698

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Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D. is Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI. He is a former president (2014–2016) of the Mariological Society of America; a member of the theological commission of the International Marian Association; and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Marian Academy International.

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