By Catholic News Service
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Mary, the Mother of God, represents a “full and mature” Christian faith, one that all believers should imitate, Pope Benedict XVI told Marian experts attending an academic conference in Rome.
People can look to Mary as an example of living according to God’s will with confidence and joy, he said Sept. 8, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary.
The pope said he put the upcoming Year of Faith under Mary’s protection because she is “an exemplary model of the faith” and is “blessed because she believed.”
He voiced hope that the year, which begins Oct. 11, would be “a true moment of grace in which Mary’s faith precedes us and accompanies us as a bright beacon and as a model of fullness and Christian maturity.”
The pope asked that people continue to trust in Mary as they draw from her “enthusiasm and joy to live our vocation as children of God with ever greater commitment and consistency.”
The pope made his remarks to about 350 participants in the Sept. 4-9 Mariological Marian International Congress, sponsored by the Pontifical Marian International Academy.
In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the congress focused on the impact of Vatican II on Marian devotion and studies.
In his address to congress participants, the pope talked about his own presence at the council as a young theologian, and recalled the debate there over whether to dedicate a separate document to Mary — so as to “adequately highlight the dignity, privilege and unique role of Mary” in Christ’s redemptive action — or to integrate the text in a larger document on the church.
In a close vote, the pope recalled, the council fathers decided to place the text on Mary within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”), giving her a fresh reading in light of Scripture so that she “appears in all her beauty and uniqueness” while still being “closely inserted in the fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith.”
The document “clearly affirms and gives the right emphasis” to Mary’s role in cooperating with God’s plan of salvation, which comes through Christ alone, he said.
While the text did not solve all difficulties related to Mary and her role in the church, the pope said it is still “a precious point of balance” between the rigors of theological foundations and truth, and the contemplative importance of spirituality, love and beauty most often exemplified in popular piety.
“The unique figure of the Mother of God must be welcomed and deepened from different and complementary perspectives,” Pope Benedict said, adding that the chapter on Mary in “Lumen Gentium” was in continuity with church tradition, and can still provide an important foundation for future theological and spiritual reflection.
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Editors: A video interview with congress participant, Holy Cross Father James Phalan, president of the Mariological Society of America, can be seen on the CNS Brightcove viewer and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6txRzhvvPg.
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