Mariological papal documents

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Mariological papal documents have been a major force that has shaped Roman Catholic Mariology over the centuries. Mariology is developed by theologians on the basis not only of Scripture and Tradition but also of the sensus fidei of the faithful as a whole, "from the bishops to the last of the faithful",[1] and papal documents have recorded those developments, defining Marian dogmas, spreading doctrines and encouraging devotions within the Catholic Church.

Popes have been highly influential for the development of doctrine and the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They made decisions not only in the area of Marian beliefs but also Marian practices and devotions. Before the twentieth century, Popes promulgated Marian veneration and beliefs by authorizing new Marian feast days, prayers, initiatives, and special privileges. Since Pope Leo XIII, Popes have promulgated Mariology also with encyclicals, apostolic letters and with two dogmas (Immaculate Conception and Assumption). This article reviews the major official teachings by the popes.


Historically a Papal bull was "an Apostolic letter with a leaden seal."[2] A papal bull is an official formal decree. In terms of formality, papal bulls and apostolic constitutions are above encyclicals, followed by apostolic letters. An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope, and is generally issued as a bull with the requisite formalities regarding seal and signature. By their nature, apostolic constitutions are addressed to the public, whereas encyclicals are usually addressed to patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops in communion with the Holy See.[3]


The perpetual virginity of Mary[edit]

  • Dominici gregis - This papal bull was issued by Pope Clement VIII on 3 February 1603. It considered Marian piety the basis for Church and condemned a number of issues as errors, including the denial of the virginity of Mary.[4]

Mother of God[edit]

  • Lumen gentium - This dogmatic constitution was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 21 November 1964. Chapter VIII, entitled "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church, discusses Mary's role in the economy of salvation.[5]

The Immaculate Conception[edit]

  • Cum Praeexcelsa, a bull by Sixtus IV, issued 28 February 1476, when plague was ravaging the country, established a Mass and Office for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
  • Ubi primum is an encyclical of Pope Pius IX to the bishops of the Catholic Church asking them for opinion on the definition of a dogma on the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It was issued on 2 February 1849.[6]
  • Ineffabilis Deus - In this key papal bull (the title of which means "ineffable God" in Latin) Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The decree was promulgated on 8 December 1854, the date of the annual Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The decree surveys the history of the belief, citing its roots in the long-standing feast of the Conception of Mary as a date of significance in the Eastern and Western churches. It also cites the approval of Catholic bishops worldwide who were asked in 1849 to offer their opinion on the matter. (The decree had been preceded by the encyclical Ubi Primum of 2 February 1849 whereby Pius IX solicited the opinions of the bishops of the Catholic Church regarding defining dogma.
Coat of arms of Pius X
  • Ad diem illum - This encyclical by Pope Pius X on the Immaculate Conception, was given on 2 February 1904, in the first year of his Pontificate. It was issued in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It is an important document because it explains the Mariology of Pope Pius X. One of the reasons the pope gave for writing the encyclical was his desire for the restoration of all things in Christ which he had defined as his motto Instaurare omnia in Christo: to restore everything in Christ, to whom there is no safer or more direct road than Mary.[7]

The Assumption[edit]

On Mary as Queen of Heaven[edit]

Mary, as intercessor for Peace[edit]

Pius XII's signature
  • Christi Matri - an encyclical of Pope Paul VI issued on 15 September 1966, calling for special devotions during the month of October, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin for peace.[13]

On the rosary[edit]

  • Superiore anno, encyclical issued on 30 August 1884 by Leo XIII "On the Recitation of the Rosary".[17]
  • Ingruentium malorum - This encyclical of Pope Pius XII focused on the rosary. It was given on 15 September, (the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary), 1951. The encyclical states that from the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Pius XII entrusted to the Mother of God the destiny of the human family. The Pope strongly supports the idea, that Catholic families should pray the rosary together.[20]
John Paul II Coat of arms with the Marian Cross
  • Rosarium Virginis Mariae - This Apostolic Letter by Pope John Paul II was issued on 16 October 2002. It deals with the Holy Rosary and views it as compendium of the Gospel message: The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. The letter reaffirms the Roman Catholic beliefs on the power of the rosary and states: Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.[21]

Sodality of Our Lady[edit]

Other documents[edit]


  1. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 92
  2. ^ Thurston, Herbert. "Bulls and Briefs." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 23 August 2017
  3. ^ Mann, Stephanie A., "What Is a Papal Bull?", Our Sunday Visitor, September 1, 2016
  4. ^ The mystery of Mary by Paul Haffner 2004 ISBN 0852446500 page 120
  5. ^ Pope Paul Vi. Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII, November 21, 1964
  6. ^ Pope Pius IX, "Ubi primum", February 2, 1849,
  7. ^ Pope Pius X. Ad diem Illum, §7, February 2, 1904, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  8. ^ Pope Pius XII, Fulgens corona, September 8, 1953, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  9. ^ McNally, Terrence, What Every Catholic Should Know about Mary ISBN 1-4415-1051-6 page 113
  10. ^ Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, November 1, 1950, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  11. ^ Pope Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam, October 11, 1954, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  12. ^ Pope Pius XII, Auspicia quaedam, May 1, 1948, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  13. ^ Pope Paul VI, Christi Matri, September 15, 1966, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  14. ^ "Teachings of the Popes and Councils on the Blessed Virgin Mary", University of Dayton
  15. ^ "The Rosary Predated St. Dominic", Zenit, October 17, 2002
  16. ^ Pope Leo XIII, Supremi apostolatus officio, Vatican, September 1, 1883
  17. ^ Pope Leo XIII, Superiore anno, Vatican, August 30, 1884
  18. ^ The Christian Faith: In the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church by Jacques Dupuis 2001 ISBN 0-8189-0893-9 page 285
  19. ^ Pope Leo XIII, Octobri mense, September 22, 1891, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  20. ^ Pope Pius XII, Ingruentium malorum , September 15, 1951, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  21. ^ Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, October 16, 2002, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  22. ^ Bis Saeculari 13
  23. ^ Pope Paul VI, Signum Magnum, May 13, 1967, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  24. ^ History of Marialis Cultus
  25. ^ Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, March 25, 1987, Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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