MOTHER OF CHURCH
‘So, for glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to our joy, we announce Blessed Mary the Mother of Church, that is, all Christian people, both believers and pastors who call Her the loveliest Mother. We also state that since now the whole Christian people will worship Our Lady just under this Name more and address their requests to Her
On 21 November 1964 Pope Paul VI said these words in his solemn announcing Mary the Mother of Church. He did it at the end of the III session of the Second Vatican Council. The main topic of that Vatican council was, as Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński said, studying the essence of the Church and its mission in the contemporary world. In the background there are juridical matters. Vatican Council Fathers concentrated mainly on the mystery of Christ living in the Church. Such understanding the Church recalled the memory about Christ’s Mother as Mother of the redeemed humankind.
‘Vatican Council Fathers used to say that where the Church and its Head – Christ are, where Christ’s mystical Body is, Mother of the Body - Mary must be there. Therefore, their request was that the Constitution about the Church should speak about Christ and His Mother. The Vatican council decided in an informative resolution, that in the Constitution about the Church there would be a special chapter devoted to Mother of Human God and Mother of Church, Mary’ (Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, 19 January 1964).
The significant contribution in announcing Mary the Mother of Church belonged to Vatican council Fathers with cardinal Wyszyński at the helm. During the first session of the Second Vatican Council bishops from all over the world were thinking on whether teaching about Our Lady was supposed to be included in a separate document, or included in the content of the dogmatic Constitution about the Church. Many fervent worshippers of Our Lady hoped that cardinal Wyszyński and Polish Fathers of the Vatican Council would support the separate document which will present teaching about Mary God’s Mother in a more detailed way. Whereas Polish bishops voted for including the teaching about Our Lady into the dogmatic Constitution about the Church. Mary is by Christ, is in the heart of the Church – emphasized cardinal Wyszyński. So it would not be right to speak about Her separately. Cardinal Wyszyński submitted a special letter in this issue, the so-called animadversio.
The Primate warned against treating the teaching about the Blessed Virgin as ‘an appendix to the dogmatic Constitution about the Church, which would be a real danger for a proper way of treating God’s Mother and people’. He expresses anxiety that so far ‘the whole Catholic integral teaching about the Blessed Virgin has not been submitted’. He states with concern: ‘Moreover, some expressions and words, used by popes, were omitted not to insult brothers who had got separated. The scheme must be rather formulated in such a way, so as to present the issue about the so-called co-redemption, especially about the ‘Proceuress’ in a different way and in a fuller meaning. Only then will neither the mediation of the Blessed Virgin nor the cult of Mary disturb the cult of Christ’.
Church needed Mary
In 1959, speaking at Jasna Góra to custodians of the sanctuary, he said: ‘The Holy Church has always needed Mary and will always need Her. (…) Mary was needed at the cradle of Jesus. Mother of Jesus from the Bethlehem stable and Mother of great mystical Christ, Mother of the Holy Church from Calvary, she is the same Mother of Christ – Mary.
She is needed by the Church in the same way as she was needed by Christ, because the Church is the same Christ walking for ages, and Christ needs Mary, still needs Mother. (…)
God wants, the Holy Church wants this wonderful work of the Holy Trinity – Mary, to live in the work of the Church. If she stood on the right hand of the Redeemer, if she sat down on the right hand of the King – the Winner of death, must also stand on the threshold of every soul in the work of the Church’ (‘On roads of entrustment’ p. 73-74).
Decorate with the title of Mary
Cardinal Wyszyński, being certain about the alive presence of Mary in the Church, was aiming at announcing Her Mother of Church at the Second Vatican Council, as well as collegial giving Her by the Holy Father and bishops of the Church in the world and the whole human family, endangered by wars, hatred, lack of faith, moral disorder.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini was the first to submit his request about announcing Mary the Mother of Church. Information about it is in the Introduction of Fr. Prof. Jan Wilk and Anna Dorota Wójcik to a valuable book edited on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council – ‘Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Primate of Poland, Father of Vatican Council II 1962-1965’. When cardinal Montini became pope, he undertook the issue and at the end of the session of the Vatican council he said: ‘We hope that in harmony and with the supreme respect and worship, the place belonging to Our Lady in the Holy Church will be acknowledged, the place – we say – the supreme after Christ and the dearest to us, in such a way that we can decorate Her with the title of the Mother of Church and to her glory and consolation’.
This significant moment was painfully redeemed by cardinal Wyszyński. His opponents even popularized an anonymous letter in the aula of the Vatican council in concern about the proper cult of Mary, in which they accuse Primate of Poland of despotism, backwardness and superficial excessive religiousness of Mary. Many Vatican council fathers, as cardinal Wyszyński mentioned after his return to Poland, had come to him with expressions of solidarity. When the Holy Father said that he would announce Mary the Mother of Church, in the aula of the Vatican council an unusual enthusiasm appeared, and archbishop of Bologna cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, sitting next to cardinal Wyszyński, bent towards him and said: ‘This is an answer to the anonymous letter’. It was how cardinal Wyszyński said about the significant moment after his return to Poland on 19 January 1964: ‘And when the Holy Father mentioned the announcement of the future resolution, then all Vatican council fathers expressed their joy with loud applauses. We, Polish bishops, were particularly happy because just at that time there were attempts in anonymous letters to accuse us and the Polish nation of excessive worshipping Blessed Mother. This kind of accusation can only be glory for us. Because what does ‘excessive’ worship mean? Can it be higher than the one which Heavenly Father showed to Mary, appointing Her as Mother of His Son? Can there be bigger worship than the one expressed to Her by the Saints who say: ‘Never enough about Mary’? We feel Her growing glory and we feel unusual help of our best Mother’ (‘Mary in the Mystery of the Church’, p. 60-61).
In May 1964 Primate Wyszyński went to Rome in order to thank personally to the Holy Father Paul VI for nomination of bishop Edmund Nowicki, an Ordinary of Gdańsk. At a private meeting on 17 May, when he asked the Holy Father to entrust the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary the Mother of Church, he found out about difficulties and objections of theologies. Having returned his country, he asked bishop Antoni Pawłowski, a mariologist, to write a letter to the Holy Father in this issue. The letter was accepted by bishops as a Memorial of the Polish Episcopate, and was sent to the Holy Father on 15 September 1964. The Polish Episcopate, reminding about the entrustment of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pius XII in 1942, asked pope Paul VI to entrust the Church and the world to Mother of Christ, within the Vatican council in a collegial way and with all bishops.
In a statement in the Vatican council aula on 16 September 1964, the Primate discussed the content of the memorial, emphasizing how significant worship to Mother of Christ is in defence of faith.
Enthusiasm filled the aula
Another act of worship to the Blessed Mother during the Vatican council was a thesis of the Primate during a Mary’s conference organized by a founder and rector of the Papal Mary’s Academy – Fr. Carlo Balicia, who was also an expert at the Second Vatican Council. That meeting was preparation for Mariological Congress in San Domingo. Indeed it took place in Palazzo Pio, outside the Vatican council aula, but it was attended by many participants of the Vatican council.
God has listened to the filial desire of Vatican council fathers and a fervent prayer of the Church in Poland – Mary was proclaimed Mother of Church. The Holy Father Paul VI did it in the Vatican council aula at the end of the III session of the Vatican council, on 21 November 1964. On that day Primate wrote ‘Promemoria’: ‘The Holy Father gives his speech in which he characterizes the results of the work of III session, especially he devotes more time to the Constitution ‘De Ecclesia’ and collegiality. The big last part of his speech is devoted to the Blessed Mother in the Church of Christ. He finishes his speech with the announcement of the Blessed Mother the Mother of Church. Fantastic enthusiasm fill the aula, long applauses are heard. All bishops stand up. Equal ecstasy and the same one as ecstasy in Ephesus, lasts long. It proves the unity of Vatican council fathers, there are not any conservative or progressive activists here – but there are believing bishops, who want Mother’.