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No. 62 • January - June 2016 • Page 72
 •  Holy See

Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by which the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene is raised to a feast (June 3, 2016)

Prot. N. 257/16


Resurrectionis dominicae primam testem et evangelistam, Sanctam Mariam Magdalenam, semper Ecclesia sive Occidentalis sive Orientalis, summa cum reverentia consideravit, etsi diversimode coluit.

Nostris vero temporibus cum Ecclesia vocata sit ad impensius consulendum de mulieris dignitate, de nova Evangelizatione ac de amplitudine mysterii divinae misericordiae bonum visum est ut etiam exemplum Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae aptius fidelibus proponatur. Haec enim mulier agnita ut dilectrix Christi et a Christo plurimum dilecta, “testis divinae misericordiae” a Sancto Gregorio Magno, et “apostolorum apostola” a Sancto Thoma de Aquino appellata, a christifidelibus huius temporis deprehendi potest ut paradigma ministerii mulierum in Ecclesia.

Ideo Summus Pontifex Franciscus statuit celebrationem Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae Calendario Romano generali posthac inscribendam esse gradu festi loco memoriae, sicut nunc habetur.

Novus celebrationis gradus nullam secumfert variationem circa diem, quo ipsa celebratio peragenda est, quoad textus sive Missalis sive Liturgiae Horarum adhibendos, videlicet:

a) dies celebrationis Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae dicatus idem manet, prout in Calendario Romano invenitur, nempe 22 Iulii;

b) textus in Missa et Officio Divino adhibendi, iidem manent, qui in Missali et in Liturgia Horarum statuto die inveniuntur, addita tamen in Missali Praefatione propria, huic decreto adnexa. Curae autem erit Coetuum Episcoporum textum Praefationis vertere in linguam vernaculam, ita ut, praevia Apostolicae Sedis recognitione adhiberi valeat, quae tempore dato in proximam reimpressionem proprii Missalis Romani inseretur.

Ubi Sancta Maria Magdalena, ad normam iuris particularis, die vel gradu diverso rite celebratur, et in posterum eodem die ac gradu quo antea celebrabitur.

Contrariis quibuslibet minime obstantibus.
Ex aedibus Congregationis de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum, die 3 mensis Iunii, in sollemnitate Sacratissimi Cordis Iesu.


Archiepiscopus a Secretis

Following is a translation of the decree.

Prot. N. 257/16


The Church, both in the East and in the West has always regarded Saint Mary Magdalene the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection and the first evangelist, and with the greatest reverence has always honored her although in diverse ways.

Given that in our time the Church is called to reflect in a more profound way on the dignity of Woman, on the New Evangelization and on the greatness of the Mystery of Divine Mercy, it seemed right that the example of Saint Mary Magdalene might also fittingly be proposed to the faithful. In fact this woman, known as the one who loved Christ and who was greatly loved by Christ, and was called a “witness of Divine Mercy” by Saint Gregory the Great and an “apostle of the apostles” by Saint Thomas Aquinas, can now rightly be taken by the faithful as a model of women’s role in the Church.

Therefore the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis has established that from now on the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene should be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar with the rank of Feast rather than Memorial as is presently the case.

The new rank of celebration does not involve any change of the day on which the celebration itself takes place and, as for the liturgical texts, the following is to be observed:

a) The day dedicated to the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene remains the same as it appears in the Roman Calendar, that is 22 July.

b) The texts to be used in the Mass and in the Divine Office remain the same as those contained in the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours on the day of the Feast, with the addition in the Missal of a proper Preface, attached to this Decree. It will be the responsibility of the Conferences of Bishops to translate the text of the Preface into the vernacular language so that, having received the approval of the Apostolic See, it can be used and in due time included in the next reprint of the Roman Missal.

Where, according to particular law, Saint Mary Magdalene is legitimately celebrated on a different day and as a Solemnity, this day and rank remains as before.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 3 June 2016, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Robert Card. Sarah

+Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

Apostolorum apostola, article of Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Dicastery

As expressly wished by the Holy Father, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has published a new decree, dated 3 June 2016, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by which the celebration of St. Mary Magdalene, currently obligatory memory, will be elevated in the general calendar to the level of a feast day.

The decision is situated in the current ecclesial context, which calls upon us to reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy. It was St. John Paul II who dedicated great attention not only to the importance of women in the very mission of Christ and the Church, but also, and with special emphasis, to the peculiar function of St. Mary Magdalene as the first witness of the Risen Christ and the first messenger who announced to the apostles the resurrection of the Lord (see Mulieris dignitatem, no. 16). This importance remains in today's Church – as shown by the current commitment to a new evangelization – which seeks to welcome, without distinction, men and women of any race, people, language and nation (see Acts 5:9), to proclaim to them the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage and to offer them the wonders of God's salvation. St. Mary Magdalene is an example of true and authentic evangelization, that is, an evangelizer who proclaims the joyful central message of Easter." (see Collect prayer of July 22 and the new Preface)

The Holy Father Francis has taken this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to stress the importance of this women, who shows great love for Christ and was very dear to Christ, as confirmed by Rabano Mauro ("dilectrix Christi et Christo plurimum dilecta": De vita beate Mariae magdalenae, Prologus) and St. Anselm of Canterbury ("electa dilectrix et dilecta Electrix Dei", Oratio a LXXIII Sanctam Mariam Magdalenam). It is certain that the Christian tradition in the West, especially after St. Gregory the Great, identifies as the same person who poured perfume in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and the sister of Lazarus and Martha. This interpretation continued to influence the western ecclesiastical writers, Christian art and liturgical texts relating to the Saint. The Bollandists widely discussed the problem of the identification of the three women and prepared the way for the liturgical reform of the Roman Calendar. With the implementation of the reform, the tests of the Roman Missal, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Martyrologium Romanum, reference is made to Mary of Magdala. It is certain that Mary Magdalene formed part of the group of Jesus' disciples, that she followed Him to the foot of the cross and in the garden in which she found the tomb, she was the first 'testis divinae misericordiae’ (Gregory the Great, XL Hom. In Evangelia, lib. II, Hom. 25, 10). The Gospel of John says that Mary Magdalene wept, as she had not found the body of the Lord (see Jn 20:11), and Jesus had mercy on her, allowing Himself to be recognized as the Master and transforming her tears into Easter joy.

On the one hand, she has the honor of being the first witness ('prima testis') to the resurrection of the Lord (Hymn Ad Laudes matutinas), the first to see the empty tomb and the first to hear the truth of His resurrection. Christ has a special consideration and mercy for this woman, who shows her love for Him, looking for Him in the garden with anguish and suffering, with 'lacrimas humilitatis', as St. Anselm says in the aforementioned prayer. In this sense, I would like to show the difference between the two women present in the garden of Paradise, and in the garden of the Resurrection.

The first disseminates death where there was life, and the second proclaims Life from a tomb, the place of death. This is also pointed out by St. Gregory the Great: Quia in paradiso mulier viro propinavit mortem, a sepulcro mulier viris annunciat vitam” (XL Hom. In Evangelia, lib. II, Hom. 25). Likewise, it is in the garden of resurrection that the Lord says to Mary Magdalene, 'Noli me tangere'. It is an invitation not only to Mary, but also to all the Church, to enter into an experience of faith that overcomes any materialistic appropriation or human understanding of the divine mystery. It has ecclesial importance! It is a good lesson for every disciple of Jesus: do not seek human securities and worldly honors, but faith in the Living and Risen Christ."

Precisely since she was an eyewitness to the Risen Christ, she was also the first to testify before the apostles. She fulfils the mandate the Risen Christ gives her: “go to my brothers and say to them…” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her (Jn 20:17-18). In this way she becomes, as is already known, an evangelist, or rather a messenger who announces the good news of the resurrection of the Lord; or, as Rabano Mauro and St. Thomas Aquinas said, “apostolorum apostola,” as she announces to the apostles what they in turn will announce to all the world (Rabano Mauro, De vita beatae Mariae Magdalenae, c. XXVII; S. Tomás de Aquino, In Ioannem Evangelistam Expositio, c. XX, L. III, 6). The Angelic Doctor is right to apply this term to Mary Magdalene: she is the witness to the Risen Christ and announces the message of the resurrection of the Lord, like the other apostles. Therefore it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same level of festivity given to the apostles in the General Roman Calendar, and that the special mission of this woman be highlighted, as an example and model to every woman in the Church.

+ Arthur Roche
Archbisop Secretary
of the Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments

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