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Co-Redemptrix in Roman Catholic Mariology refers to the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the redemption process. It is a separate concept from Mediatrix.

The concept of Co-redemptrix refers to an indirect or unequal but important participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption. She gave free consent to give life to the redeemer, to share his life, to suffer with him under the cross and to sacrifice him for the sake of the redemption of humankind.

Co-Redemptrix has not been formally defined as a dogma, although petitions for declaring it (along with Mediatrix) a dogma have been submitted to the pope by various Cardinals and bishops. It would become a fifth Marian dogma if approved by the Holy See.


Co-redemption is not a new concept. Even before the year 200, the Church Father Irenaeus referred to Mary as "causa salutis" [cause of our salvation] given her "fiat" It is a teaching which has been considered since the 15th century but never declared a dogma.

A number of theologians have discussed the concept over the years, from the 19th century Father Frederick William Faber, to the highly respected 20th century Mariologist (and advisor to the Holy Office) Father Gabriel Roschini. In his 1946 publication Compendium Mariologiae, Roschini explained that Mary did not only participate in birth of the physical Jesus, but, with conception, she entered with him into a spiritual union. The divine salvation plan, being not only material, includes a permanent spiritual unity with Christ. Most Mariologists agree with this position.

The Roman Catholic view of Co-Redemptrix does not imply that Mary participates as equal part in the redemption of the human race, since Christ is the only redeemer. Mary herself needed redemption and was redeemed by Jesus Christ her son. Being redeemed by Christ, implies that she cannot be his equal part in the redemption process.

Papal teachings

Popes began to mention the concept of Co-Redemptrix in official Church documents in the very early part of the 20th century, and continued to do so throughout that century.


The views of Pope Leo XIII regarding Mary as Co-Redemptrix rely on Thomas Aquinas. From him he borrows the notion that Mary, in the hour of Annunciation, assumed the role of a helper in the mystery of redemption. Thus all Christians are born through Mary. With Jesus, Mary carried all in her womb. Therefore all Christians are her children.

Pope Pius X

In 1904, in the very first year of his Pontificate, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius X issued his encyclical Ad Diem Illum which is an important document, because it explains his mariology. In the encyclical he stated:

We are then, it will be seen, very far from attributing to the Mother of God a productive power of grace - a power which belongs to God alone. Yet, since Mary carries it over all in holiness and union with Jesus Christ, and has been associated by Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, she merits for us de congruo, in the language of theologians, what Jesus Christ merits for us de condigno, and she is the supreme Minister of the distribution of graces.

To date, theologians continue to debate whether the Pontiff referred here to the Co-Redemptrix or to the Mediatrix of all graces, yet he clearly started the 20th century discussion on the role of the Virgin Mary in redemption and salvation.

Pope Benedict XV

Pope Benedict XV first described the term in his own right in his Apostolic Letter, Inter Soldalica, issued on March 22, 1918:

As the Blessed Virgin Mary does not seem to participate in the public life of Jesus Christ, and then, suddenly appears at the stations of his cross, she is not there without divine intention. She suffers with her suffering and dying son, almost as if she would have died herself. For the salvation of mankind, she gave up her rights as the mother of her son and sacrificed him for the reconciliation of divine justice, as far as she was permitted to do. Therefore, one can say, she redeemed with Christ the human race.

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII repeated the same argument with slightly different tones in his 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis:

It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall, and her mother's rights and her mother's love were included.

In the Papal bull Munificentissimus Deus on dogma of the assumption, Pope Pius XII declared that:

“the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, as the noble associate of the divine Redeemer

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II continued to use the term Co-Redemptrix on several occasions, but he did not issue an encyclical on it. Yet he discussed the related (but not equivalent) concept of Mediatrix in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater. During his General Audience of September 8 1982 Pope John Paul II greeted the sick with the words:

"Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participated in a marvellous way in the suffering of her divine Son, in order to be Co-Redemptrix of humanity".

On Jan 31, 1985 in Guayaquil, Ecuador he said:

"As she was in a special way close to the cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary's role as Co-Redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son."

Later in 1985 he was quoted by the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romanomarker as follows:

"May, Mary our Protectress, the Co-Redemptrix, to whom we offer our prayer with great outpouring, make our desire generously correspond to the desire of the Redeemer"

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI put a strong emphasis on co-redemption in his prayer to Our Lady of Sheshanmarker:

In an audience on 8 May 2009, Benedict stated that “We are accompanied in this itinerary by the Blessed Virgin who silently followed her Son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with deep sorrow in his sacrifice and thus cooperating in the mystery of the Redemption and becoming Mother of all believers (cf. Jn 19: 25-27). Together with her we shall enter the Upper Room, we shall remain at the foot of the Cross, we shall watch in spirit beside the dead Christ, waiting with hope for the dawn of the radiant day of the Resurrection″.

Quotes from Scripture

The Sacred Scriptures are commonly cited in favour of this teaching :

  • Zechariah 12:10 : "They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son."

  • John 2:5 : "Do whatever He tells you".

  • Luke 2:25 : "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also".

  • Luke 1:38 : "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her".

  • John 19:25-27 : "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."

  • John 2:1-11 : "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him".

  • Galatians 2:20 : "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me".

  • Luke 1:26 : "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Proposed dogmatic definition

The formal declaration of Co-Redemptrix as a Marian dogma has had both popular and ecclesiastical support with millions of signatures gathered. Yet opposition to it exists within some Vatican circles on ecumenical grounds and on the basis on the need for further clarity.

Any new dogma regarding Co-Redemptrix would not be totally new, but be based on existing Marian dogma. It would therefore hold in some form, that "Mary is Co-Redemptrix (Co-operator in the Redemption), because, (1) as the immaculately conceived Mother of God, who is full of grace and free of any sin, she assists her son, the Son of God in his redemptive mission. (2) Any dogma would likely be based on her assumption into heaven. Because she is already assumed into heaven, Mary can effectively continue her saving office as Advocate and Mediatrix of all grace by her constant intercession to obtain for all men the gifts of salvation. (3) Any dogma would likely attempt to clarify Catholic teaching, that Mary's role is subordinate to and always dependent upon the essential and chief role of her Son."

Vatican II

The dogmatic definition of Co-Redemptrix was brought up at Vatican II by Italian, Spanish and Polish bishops but not dealt with. Subsequently, Popes, while sympathetic to requests from the faithful and bishops, did not include such language in their encyclicals.

Opposing views

A dogmatic definition proposal is not supported by all Catholics, partly based on the argument that such a dogma might limit the redemptive role of Jesus Christ, and partly based on the argument that it would also complicate ecumenical efforts for a better understanding of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the salvation mystery of Jesus Christ. According to Father Stefano de Fiores, a member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy Marianum:

"from the conciliar and ecumenical point of view, it is certainly not opportune to proclaim this dogma at this time. The separated brethren, Protestants and Orthodox, reproach us for not consulting them in regard to the last dogmas on Mary. This is why I think that a dogma of this type would have to include their participation". (Therefore) "Pontiffs do not mention it precisely so as not to cause a misunderstanding with the Protestants".

Popular and ecclesiastical support

The history of mariological dogmas on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption show that dogmatic developments take often many centuries and long processes for maturation. And popular support has always been the engine for the clarification of Marian teachings in the Roman Catholic Church. Without such support, the dogmas of the Immaculate conception and the Assumption of Mary into heaven would probably not have been possible.

In the early 1990s Professor Mark Miravalle of the Franciscan University of Steubenville and author of the book Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate launched a popular petition to urge Pope John Paul II to use Papal infallibility to declare Mary as Co-Redemptrix. More than six million signatures were gathered from 148 countries, including those of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, and 41 other cardinals and 550 bishops.

The petitions continue to date. On February 8, 2008 five Roman Catholic Cardinals issued a petition asking Pope Benedict XVI to dogmatically declare the Blessed Virgin Mary as both Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix. The five Cardinals were: Telesphore Toppo, Luis Aponte Martínez, Varkey Vithayathil, Riccardo Vidal, and Ernesto Corripio y Ahumada. The Cardinals also included a votum (i.e. petition) that would allows other cardinals and bishops to also request the same from the pontiff. To date over 500 bishops have sent in their votums to the Vatican in support of a fifth Marian dogma.. And a lay movement called Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici provides petitions that can be signed by Roman Catholics at large and sent to the Pope in support of a formal dogmatic definition.

The Society of Saint Pius X has indicated its support for this dogma, with one of its seminaries in La Reja (Argentina) being named in honor of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix.

See also


  • Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Mercier Press Ltd., Cork, Ireland, 1955.
  • Acta Apostolicae Sedis, referenced as AAS by year.


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