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Munificentissimus Deus

Munificentissimus Deus

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Munificentissimus Deus is the name of an Apostolic constitution
Apostolic constitution
An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the...

 written by Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII
The Venerable Pope Pius XII , born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli , reigned as Pope, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City State, from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958....

. It defines ex cathedra
Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra is a British choir and early music ensemble based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, England. It performs choral music spanning the 15th to 21st centuries, and regularly commissions new works....

the dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 of the Assumption
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

 of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Blessed Virgin Mary (Roman Catholic)
Roman Catholic veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is based on Holy Scripture: In the fullness of time, God sent his son, born of a virgin. The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God through Mary thus signifies her honour as Mother of God...

. It was the first ex-cathedra infallible
Papal infallibility
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church which states that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when in his official capacity he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals...

 statement since the official ruling on papal infallibility was made at the First Vatican Council
First Vatican Council
The First Vatican Council was convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868, after a period of planning and preparation that began on 6 December 1864. This twentieth ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, held three centuries after the Council of Trent, opened on 8 December 1869 and adjourned...

 (1869–1870). In 1854, Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Blessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...

 made an infallible
Papal infallibility
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church which states that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when in his official capacity he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals...

 statement with Ineffabilis Deus
Ineffabilis Deus
Ineffabilis Deus is the name of a Papal bull by Pope Pius IX. It defines ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary...

on the Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, according to which the Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. It is one of the four dogmata in Roman Catholic Mariology...

 of the Virgin Mary, which was a basis for this dogma. The decree was promulgated
Promulgation
Promulgation is the act of formally proclaiming or declaring a new statutory or administrative law after its enactment. In some jurisdictions this additional step is necessary before the law can take effect....

 on November 1, 1950.

Historical background


Pope Pius XII's previous encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae
Deiparae Virginis Mariae
Deiparae Virginis Mariae , is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to all Catholic bishops on the possibility of defining the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a dogma of faith....

(May 1, 1946) to all Catholic bishops stated that for a long time past, numerous petitions had been received from cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, priests, religious of both sexes, associations, universities and innumerable private persons, all begging that the bodily Assumption into heaven of the Blessed Virgin should be defined and proclaimed as a dogma of faith. This was also fervently requested by almost two hundred fathers in the Vatican Council
Vatican Council
The First Vatican Council took place in 1869 - 1870 and was the 20th of ecumenical councils recognized by Roman Catholicism.The Second Vatican Council took place in the 1962 - 1965 and was the 21st....

 (1869–1870).

Following the example of Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Blessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...

, who canvassed Catholic bishops before proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, according to which the Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. It is one of the four dogmata in Roman Catholic Mariology...

, Pius XII asked all bishops for their opinion.

"Actually God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favorable and unique affection, has 'when the fullness of time came' put the plan of his providence into effect in such a way that all the privileges and prerogatives he had granted to her in his sovereign generosity were to shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And, although the Church has always recognized this supreme generosity and the perfect harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and more throughout the course of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly".


At issue was not the belief in the Assumption, but its dogmatisation. Munificentissimus Deus reports popular acclaim and "nearly unanimous" approval of the contemporary bishops. The names of the bishops attending the dogma celebration in 1950 are listed at the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

.

Review of Catholic beliefs


The decree surveys theological history, especially the history of the belief in the Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 Christian tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

, ... "the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact", Munificentissimus Deus reviews the history of Catholic liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 and the many liturgical book
Liturgical book
A liturgical book is a book published by the authority of a church, that contains the text and directions for the liturgy of its official religious services.-Roman Catholic:...

s, ... "which deal with the feast either of the Dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin", and the teaching of previous popes. Munificentissimus Deus cites also the teaching of previous bishops and such writers as John of Damascus
John of Damascus
Saint John of Damascus was a Syrian monk and priest...

, Francis de Sales
Francis de Sales
Francis de Sales was Bishop of Geneva and is a Roman Catholic saint. He worked to convert Protestants back to Catholicism, and was an accomplished preacher...

, Robert Bellarmine
Robert Bellarmine
Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation...

, Anthony of Padua
Anthony of Padua
Anthony of Padua or Anthony of Lisbon, O.F.M., was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. Though he died in Padua, Italy, he was born to a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, which is where he was raised...

 and Albert the Great among others.

The dogma of the Assumption


On November 1, 1950, referring his dogmatic authority, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma:
"By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God
Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, according to which the Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. It is one of the four dogmata in Roman Catholic Mariology...

, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory".

Relevance to the faithful


In the dogmatic statement, the phrase "having completed the course of her earthly life" was carefully written to leave open the question of whether or not Mary died before her Assumption, or whether, like the Assumption of the Prophet Elijah
Elijah (prophet)
Elijah also Elias ; , meaning "Yahweh is my God";Arabic:إلياس, Ilyās), was a prophet in the Kingdom of Samaria during the reign of Ahab , according to the Books of Kings....

, Mary was assumed before death; both possibilities are allowed in the formulation. In articles 14, 17 and 20 of the dogmatic pronouncement, however, it is stated that Mary had indeed died: "...the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but ... she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ...".

The entire decree (and the title itself) is also worded to suggest that Mary's Assumption was not in any sense a logical necessity, but rather a divine gift to Mary as Mother of God. Munificentissimus Deus teaches that Mary lived and completed her life as a shining example to the human race. The gift of her assumption is offered to all the faithful and signifies what to hope for at the end of time. Her assumption signifies God's intention to all those faithful to Him.
"Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective."

Non-Catholic reaction


Paul Tillich
Paul Tillich
Paul Johannes Tillich was a German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher. Tillich was one of the most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century...

 asked fellow Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr
Reinhold Niebuhr
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

 in March 1950, about eight months before the decree was promulgated, if he expected the Pope to make the declaration about Mary's assumption ex cathedra
Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra is a British choir and early music ensemble based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, England. It performs choral music spanning the 15th to 21st centuries, and regularly commissions new works....

. Niebuhr replied: "I don't think so; he is too clever for that; it would be a slap in the face of the whole modern world and it would be dangerous for the Roman Church to do that today".

See also

  • Assumption of Mary
    Assumption of Mary
    According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

  • Dormition of the Theotokos
    Dormition of the Theotokos
    The Dormition of the Theotokos is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos , and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on August 15 The Dormition...

  • Papal infallibility
    Papal infallibility
    Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church which states that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when in his official capacity he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals...

  • Marian papal encyclicals and Apostolic Letters
    Marian papal encyclicals and Apostolic Letters
    Marian papal encyclicals and Apostolic Letters have been a major force that has shaped Roman Catholic Mariology over the centuries. Although Mariology has also grown from the bottom up via sensus fidelium, papal views have transformed Marian dogmas, doctrines and devotions within the Roman Catholic...


Literature before the definition

  • POPE PIUS XII, APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION, MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS DEFINING THE DOGMA OF THE ASSUMPTION, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1950, 735
  • C. Balic, Bibliotheca de Assumptione BVM ex Omnibus Saeculis, Rome, 1948, 2 Volumes
  • Otto Faller, De Priorum Saeculorum Silentio circa Assumptionem BMV, Rome, 1946
  • G. Hentrich et R.G.de Moos, Petitiones de Assumptione Corpora BVM in Caelum Definiendae ad S.Sedem Delatae, Vatican City, 1944; 2 Volumes
  • G. Hentrich, Assomption de la Sainte Vierge, in Manoir, I, pp 621-658
  • J.M. Bover, La Asuncion de Maria, Estudio teologico historico, Madrid, 1947
  • J. Ernst, Die leibliche Himmelfahrt Mariens, Paris 1925

External links