Mary and the Church:
Mary and the World (ecumenism)

The charts below are direct quotes from Post-Vatican II Magisterial Documents concerning the theme, Mary and Ecumenism. These teachings of the Catholic Church may prove useful to include in talks, in homilies or for research. For the full title and document data, click on the abbreviation code (for example, BYM leads you to the document, Behold Your Mother). This will also lead you to the complete document on this website or assist you in locating it elsewhere.

For an index of the documents used in the study see: List of Magisterial Documents
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Please note: After the general words on ecumenism, subtitles are listed for each section below. To access only one topic at a time, see separate documents:

Orthodox / Reformed Churches / Judaism / Islam

Documents IV. Mary and the Church / 6. Mary and the World ( ecumenism)
Lumen Gentium, 1964
  • [theologians...] let them carefully refrain from whatever might by word or deed lead the separated brethren or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the Church 67
  • intercede...until all families of people, whether they are honored with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity 68


  • ...the Easterns, who with devout mind and fervent impulse give honor to the Mother of God, ever virgin 69

Christi Matri Rosarii, 1968
  • [ecumenical aspect lies in those addressed, inviting all Christians to pray the rosary]
Signum Magnum, 1967
  • [an invitation to accept exhortation wholeheartedly to] those who, though they do not enjoy full communion with the Catholic Church, do join with us in honoring and venerating Mary as the Mother of God's Son 35


  • teachings were interpreted and spelled out more clearly by Eastern and Western Church traditions 35
Behold Your Mother (USA), 1973
  • Ecumenically, "mediatrix" has seemed to many who are not Catholics to clash with the Biblical insistence on Jesus Christ as our one Mediator (I Tm 2:5). 66 [Also 102, 107] Some of the most beautiful and profound passages concerning the Mother of God were written by the Eastern Fathers of the Church. 90

    Consistent treatment of the Blessed Virgin and Ecumenism 101-112:

  • Catholics have been spurred on by the Second Vatican Council to "return to the Bible" for a profounder understanding of the Mother of Jesus as woman of faith. 101
  • the Council's careful language ... "painstakingly guard against any word or deed which could lead separated brethren or anyone else into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church" (LG 67) 102
  • Of ecumenical import also are Catholic efforts to show that such beliefs about the Mother of the Lord as her initial freedom from original sin (the Immaculate Conception) and her final union with the risen Christ (the Assumption) are not isolated privileges, but mysteries filled with meaning for the whole Church. 102
  • No sound ecumenism can ignore the question of Mary. ... 109

    Reformation Churches

  • Reformation and Counter-Reformation [history, excesses and polemics] 103-104
  • We are convinced that all Christians share a basic reverence for the Mother of Jesus, a veneration deeper than doctrinal differences and theological disputes. We share a common past. Together we accept the Gospel respect for the Mother of Jesus, handmaid of the Lord, woman of faith, model of prayer, servant of the Spirit. 106


  • reference in the Decree on Ecumenism to "the hierarchy of truths," which "vary in their relationship to the foundation of the Christian faith." (UR 11) 107
  • ... with regard to the differences that still divide Western Christians ... and the role of Mary in the work of salvation." (UR 20) 108
  • [matters to commonly explore] our common patrimony, hierarchy of truths, Theotokos, relationship between Scripture, Tradition and the Church=s teaching role, effects of redemption in Mary, bond between Mary and the Holy Spirit. 107-112
  • May her loving desire that her Son's words be heeded hasten Christian unity. 146
Marialis Cultus, 1974
    [Ecumenical: one of the four mandated guidelines for devotion to the BVM]


  • March 25: With regard to Christ, the East and the West, in the inexhaustible riches of their liturgies, celebrate this solemnity as the commemoration of the salvific "fiat" of the Incarnate Word, who, entering the world, said: "God, here I am! I am coming to obey Your will." (cf. Heb. 10:7; Ps. 39:8-9) They commemorate it as the beginning of the redemption and of the in- dissoluble and wedded union of the divine nature with human nature in the one Person of the Word. With regard to Mary, these liturgies celebrate it as a feast of the new Eve, the obedient and faithful virgin, who with her generous "fiat" (cf. Lk. 1:38) became through the working of the Spirit, the Mother of God, but also the true Mother of the living, and, by receiving into her womb the one Mediator (cf. I Tm. 2:5), became the true Ark of the Covenant and true Temple of God. 6
  • [Eucharistic prayers 1 & 3] in admirable harmony with the Eastern liturgies [regarding commemoration of BVM; footnote 24 lists] 10
  • Both in the East and in the West the highest and purest expressions of devotion to the Blessed Virgin have sprung from the liturgy or have been incorporated into it. 15


  • ... in venerating with particular love the glorious Theotokos and in acclaiming her as the "Hope of Christians," (Orthodox Office) Catholics unite themselves with their brethren of the Orthodox Churches, in which devotion to the Blessed Virgin finds its expression in a beautiful lyricism and in solid doctrine. 32


  • Catholics are also united with Anglicans, whose classical theologians have already drawn attention to the sound scriptural basis for devotion to the Mother of our Lord, while those of the present day increasingly underline the importance of Mary's place in the Christian life. 32

    Refomed Churches

  • Praising God with the very words of the Virgin (cf. Lk. 1:46-55), they are united, too, with their brethren in the Churches of the Reform, where love for the Sacred Scriptures flourishes. 32

    [guidelines for Catholics]

  • the ecumenical aspect of Marian devotion is shown in the Catholic Church's desire that, without in any way detracting from the unique character of this devotion [seeking M's intercession], (LG 66, SC 103) every care should be taken to avoid any exaggeration which could mislead other Christian brethren about the true doctrine of the Catholic Church." (LG 67) 32
  • Similarly, the Church desires that any manifestation of cult which is opposed to correct Catholic practice should be eliminated. 32
  • since it is natural that in true devotion to the Blessed Virgin "the Son should be duly known, loved and glorified ... when the Mother is honored," (LG 66) such devotion is an approach to Christ, the source and center of ecclesiastical communion, in which all who openly confess that He is God and Lord, Savior and sole Mediator (cf. 1 Tm. 2:5) are called to be one, with one another, with Christ and with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. (Paul VI) 32
  • [differences of opinion but same power of the Most High which overshadowed the Virgin of Nazareth (cf. Lk 1:35), hence -- not an obstacle but a path and a rallying point for unity] 33
[See also: spiritual motherhood, 34, regarding ecumenism]

Redemptor Hominis, 1979
  • We do so [united ourselves with her in a special way] with all our attachment to our ancient tradition and also with full respect and love for the members of all the Christian communities. Final ¶
Redemptoris Mater, 1987
    [Unity of all Christians, Articles 29-34]
    • [sign of hope and solace LG 68] "it gives great joy and comfort to this most holy Synod that among the divided brethren, too, there are those who give due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Savior. This is especially so among the Easterners." (LG 69) 29
    • [unity possible only if based on faith] must resolve considerable discrepancies of doctrine concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church, and sometimes also concerning the role of Mary in the work of salvation. (UR 20) 30
    • [study: Word made flesh/divine motherhood; Church/Mary] clarifying each in the light of the other ... -will be able to go forward together on this "pilgrimage of faith." Mary, who is still the model of this pilgrimage, is to lead them to the unity which is willed by their one Lord and so much desired by those who are attentively listening to what "the Spirit is saying to the Churches" today (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17). 30
    • [agreement]  - recognize her as the Mother of the Lord and hold that this forms part of our faith in Christ, true God and true man.
      - look to her who at the foot of the Cross accepts as her son the beloved disciple, the one who in his turn accepts her as his mother. 30
    • Why should we not all together look to her as our common Mother, who prays for the unity of God's family and who "precedes" us all at the head of the long line of witnesses of faith in the one Lord, the Son of God, who was conceived in her virginal womb by the power of the Holy Spirit? 30


    • Theotokos - Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the ancient Churches of the East feel united by love and praise of the Theotokos. Not only "basic dogmas of the Christian faith concerning the Trinity and God's Word made flesh of the Virgin Mary were defined in Ecumenical Councils held in the East," (UR 14) but also in their liturgical worship "the Orientals pay high tribute, in very beautiful hymns, to Mary ever Virgin ... God's Most Holy Mother." (UR 15) 31 [See more detailed distinctions/unity in this article]
    • The Greek Fathers and the Byzantine tradition, contemplating the Virgin in the light of the Word made flesh, have sought to penetrate the depth of that bond which unites Mary, as the Mother of God, to Christ and the Church: the Virgin is a permanent presence in the whole reality of the salvific mystery. 31 [also Coptic and Ethiopian in this article]
    • [rich heritage in liturgy ...] incomparable abundance of feasts and hymns 31, 32
    • [icons, see more under marian devotion]
    • [Note:] I [John Paul II] also recall the Icon of the Virgin of the Cenacle, praying with the Apostles as they awaited the Holy Spirit: could she not become the sign of hope for all those who, in fraternal dialogue, wish to deepen their obedience of faith? 33
    • [Marian Year 1987 linked to ecumenism; see 49]
    • [May she intercede] until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity." (LG 69) 50
The VM in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, 1988
  • Mariology has also been especially considered in the field of ecumenism.


  • John Paul II has underlined "how profoundly the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the ancient Churches of the East" feel united by love and praise of the "Theotokos" (Redemptoris Mater, 31)... - Dimitrios I, the Ecumenical Patriarch, has noted that "our two sister Churches have maintained throughout the centuries unextinguished the flame of devotion to the most venerated person of the all-holy Mother of God" (Dimitrios I, Homily given on  Dec 7, 1987 during the celebration of Vespers at St. Mary Major (Rome): L'Osservatore Romano (Eng.ED.21-28 Dec. 1987), p.6), and he went on to say that "the subject of Mariology should occupy a central position in the theological dialogue between our Churches...for the full establishment of our ecclesial communion." (ibid., 6) 14

    Reformation Churches

  • The post-conciliar period has been characterized by dialogue and by the thrust towards mutual understanding. This has brought an end to the centuries-old mistrust, and has led to a better knowledge of respective doctrinal positions; it has also led to a number of common initiatives in research. Thus, at least in some cases, it has been possible to understand both the dangers in "obscuring" the person of Mary in ecclesial life, and also the necessity of holding to data of Revelation (The Ecumenical Directory provides guidelines for a Mariological formation which is attentive to ecumenical needs: Secretariatus ad Christianorum Unitatem Fovendam, Spiritus Domini (April 16, 1970): AAS 62 (1970), 705-724). 14


  • area of inter-religious discourse, Mariology has studied Judaism, source of the "Daughter of Sion." 14


  • also studied Islam, in which Mary is venerated as holy Mother of Christ. 14
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994
Fidei Depositum, 1992
[There are references to eastern art, prayer forms and hymnody, but CCC does not directly speak of ecumenical issues involving Mary]
Orientale Lumen, 1995
Ut Unum Sint, 1995


  • Indeed, in comparison to any other culture, the Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the church was born. ... The Christian tradition of the East implies a way of accepting, understanding and living faith in the Lord Jesus. OL 5
  • the Decree on Ecumenism mentions the way of formulating doctrine as one of the elements of a continuing reform. (UR 6) Here it is not a question of altering the deposit of faith, changing the meaning of dogmas, eliminating essential words from them, accommodating truth to the preferences of a particular age or suppressing certain articles of the Creed under the false pretext that they are no longer understood today. The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. UUS 18
  • Even so, doctrine needs to be presented in a way that makes it understandable to those for whom God himself intends it UUS 19
  • establishment in 1979, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has worked steadily, directing its study to areas decided upon by mutual agreement, with the purpose of re-establishing full communion between the two churches UUS 59
  • In the period following the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has also, in different ways and with greater or lesser rapidity, restored fraternal relations with the ancient churches of the East which rejected the dogmatic formulations of the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. ... And precisely in relation to Christology, we have been able to join the patriarchs of some of these churches in declaring our common faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man. [various official statements are listed; then the pope concludes] I wish to express my joy at all this in the words of the Blessed Virgin: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord." (Lk 1:46) UUS 62
  • It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of faith can be achieved:
  • 1) the relationship between sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and sacred tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the word of God;
    2) the eucharist, as the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and real presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit;
    3) ordination, as a sacrament, to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate;
    4) the Magisterium of the church, entrusted to the pope and the bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith;
    5) the Virgin Mary, as mother of God and icon of the church, the spiritual mother who intercedes for Christ=s disciples and for all humanity. UUS 79
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 2002
  • Perhaps too, there are some who fear that the Rosary is somehow unecumenical because of its distinctly Marian character. Yet the Rosary clearly belongs to the kind of veneration of the Mother of God described by the Council: a devotion directed to the Christological center of the Christian faith, in such a way that "when the Mother is honored, the Son ... is duly known, loved and glorified." (LG 66) If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism! 4

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.

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