BATH, England – An impressive 3rd International Symposium examining the Church’s doctrine concerning Mary as Coredemptrix of the human race, was held from August 20-26, 2002 at Downside Abbey School, Stratton-on-the Fosse, Bath, Somerset, England.
The conference was dedicated to "Maria Mater Unitatis" (Mary, Mother of Unity), and the various scholarly papers presented by the speakers from various countries may be said to have constituted valuable commentaries confirming the truth of Pope John Paul II’s words spoken in an address of September 8, 1982:
"Mary, Conceived without sin, has participated in an admirable way in the sufferings of Her Divine Son to be Coredemptrix of humanity."
Speakers and participants were greeted by the abbot of Downside, Rt. Rev. Richard Yeo, O.S.B., whose magnificent Abbey Church is known as the largest and perhaps the finest example of the neo-Gothic post-Reformation Catholic churches in England. Often described as the "most splendid demonstration of the renaissance of Catholicism in England," the Abbey Church provided a splendid setting for the Masses and Spiritual Exercises for "A Day With Mary" that was the climax of the week’s proceedings.
Interestingly, the Abbey Church contains the Altar and Shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett, archbishop of Armagh, and the last martyr to suffer from the harsh penal laws which practically crushed English Catholicism until its revival in the 19th century. He was executed in 1681 in London.
Specialists in Mariology from various countries delivered papers at the conference and joined in discussions which urged prayer to Mary, Mother of God, as Coredemptrix, for resolution of the crisis of faith wracking the Church in our time.
This impressive international symposium was co-sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the lay members of "A Day With Mary" who fervently promote Marian devotion in Bristish parishes.
Msgr. Keith Barltrop, the director of the "Catholic Missionary Society" who is charged with setting up a national Agency for Evangelization for the bishops of England and Wales, spoke on "Coredemptive Aspects of the Maternity of Mary With Reference to the New Evangelization."
The Downside monk Fr. Michael Clothier, O.S.B., spoke on "Coredemption and Unity: Obstacles and Opportunities," while the Austrian founder of the missionary community "Family of Mary Coredemptrix" and author of a book on Our Lady of All Nations, Fr. Paul Sigl, gave an informative slide presentation on saints who worked for the unity of Christians.
In his important address, Dr. Mark I. Miravalle, president of the international movement "Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici", observed that the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations in Holland had been authenticated as truly supernatural by Bishop Joseph Maria Punt of Harlaam-Amsterdam, and proceeded to refute objections to a possible papal definition of Our Lady as Coredemptrix that had been made by certain theologians of the so-called 'Czestochowa Commission'.
Msgr. Arthur Calkins, well-known American Mariologist and official of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei', delivered a remarkable address "Maria Reparatrix: Magisterium, Liturgy, and Tradition". Fr. Martin Edwards, chaplain to "Aid to the Church in Need", UK, and spiritual director of the "North Surrey Curia of the Legion of Mary", also addressed the liturgical foundation of Mary’s prerogatives with his commentary: "Marian Coredemption in the Liturgical Year."
An Argentinean professor of dogmatic theology, Fr. Carlos Biestro, who is also engaged in the formation of priests and is author of a new work " Jardin Cerrado" dealing with Old Testament types of our Lady, addressed the conference on "The Coredemptrix in the Biblical Figures of the Old Testament."
An American, Rt. Rev. Mother Elisabeth Marie Keeler, who is abbess of the Benedictine Abbey of S. Scolastica in Bari, Italy, the oldest monastery of southern Italy, founded in A.D. 751, spoke on "The Mystery of Our Lady’s Cooperation in our Redemption as Seen in the Fathers of Benedictine Monasticism From the Sixth to the Twelfth Century."
The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate contributed greatly to the conference. The Minister General Fr. Stefan M. Maneffi, F.I., a spiritual son of St. Padre Pio, and a well-known spiritual writer, dealt with "The Coredemption in the Book 'Calls of Fatima' by Sr. Lucia of Fatima"; Fr. Massimilliano Zangheratti, FI, spoke on "Mater Unitatis, Because of Mater Coredemptrix"; Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, FI,, spoke on "The Coredemption in Blessed Gabriella Sagheddu"; Fr. Angelo Geiger, FI., gave an address on "Marian Mediation as Presence of the Immaculata?"
Papers of three theologians who were unable to personally attend were also read: Pontifical Lateran University theologian Msgr. Brunero Gherardini’s "The Coredemptrix and the Unity of Christians"; Swiss priest Fr. Arcangelo Parrotta’s "Marian Coredemption in Fr. Gabriele Roschini"; and a theological summary by Fr. Peter Damian Fehiner, FI, the conference’s chairman.
The witness of the Eastern Churches to Marian doctrine was not forgotten. I spoke on "The Immaculate Conception and the Doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix and Coredemptrix in Modern Eastern Orthodoxy" and a priest-columnist for the "Catholic Times", Fr. Francis Marsden, who has bi-ritual faculties to celebrate the Byzantine Ukrainian liturgy, gave a beautiful address on "Breathing With Both Lungs: Some Reflections on Prayer to Mary, Mother of God, From the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Tradition?"
Trevor Downs, vice president of the UK branch of "Day With Mary’ and a convert and former Baptist, gave a touching address: "Mary My Mother."
This short summary cannot do justice to the theological riches contained in the various addresses or to the beautiful liturgies and musical events that highlighted this third International Symposium on the doctrine of Mary Coredemptrix. Those attending had the pleasure of participating in what was, in effect, a pilgrimage to a magnificent Benedictine abbey and a devout spiritual retreat marked, by impressive liturgies, homilies, and hymnody.
Fortunately, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate are scheduled to
publish all the papers delivered at the Downside Abbey School Symposium. Readers seeking to
benefit from the addresses given at the previous International Symposium on Marian
Coredemption held at Ratcliffe College (NR. Leicester), Fosse Way, England, may write
Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate,
199 Colonel Brown Rd.,
Griswold, CT 06351
to obtain the volume: "Mary at the Foot of the Cross"