ROME – Pope Francis, whose devotion to Mary is well-known, on Saturday established a new feast for the Catholic Church devoted to Mary as the “Mother of the Church,” to be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost.
The decision was announced in a decree by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, released on Saturday by the Vatican Press Office.
The decree observes that the veneration of Mary as Mother of the Church has ancient roots in Catholic tradition, reaching back to St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great. The title, the document says, is rooted in New Testament accounts about Mary.
“She became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross, handing on the Spirit,” the decree said.
“Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.”
In 1964, at the close of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Blessed Pope Paul VI formally declared Mary as the “Mother of the Church,” and invited Catholics to invoke Mary’s help under that title.
During the jubilee year of 1975, the Vatican produced a special Mass, called a “votive Mass,” for Mary under the title of Beata Maria Ecclesiæ Matre, or “Blessed Mary Mother of the Church,” and also approved inserting the title into various prayers in honor of Mary.
With the new decree, devotion to Mary as Mother of the Church now becomes an approved feast for the universal Church.
“Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and be now celebrated every year,” the document said.
“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God,” it said.
The decree stipulated that the feast should appear in all calendars and liturgical books. It also said that once translations of the texts for the new feast are approved by bishops’ conferences, they will be published after the congregation gives its confirmation.
Last October, Francis transferred primary responsibility for overseeing many matters of liturgical translation from the congregation to bishops’ conferences around the world.
The decree was dated Feb. 11, which is the memorial for the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.