Mystici corporis Christi

Mystici corporis Christi (29 June 1943) is a papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII during World War II, on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.[1] It is one of the more important encyclicals of Pope Pius XII, because of its topic, the Church, and because its Church concept was fully included in Lumen gentium but also strongly debated during and after Vatican II. The Church is called body, because it is a living entity; it is called the body of Christ, because Christ is its Head and Founder; it is called mystical body, because it is neither a purely physical nor a purely spiritual unity, but supernatural.[2]

The encyclical followed the commencement of Nazi Germany's programs of "euthanasia" of the disabled, and race-based murders of Jews and other minorities, and is therefore significant for its reiteration of Church teachings against racism and the killings of people with disabilities.

His Holiness Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII

Theological background

The encyclical builds on a theological development in the 1920s and 1930s in Italy, France, Germany and England, which all re-discovered the ancient Pauline concept of the Mystical Body of Christ.[3] Pius XII utilized these new discoveries and authoritatively added his directions to them, as the Dutch Jesuit Sebastian Tromp documented.[4] Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Raimondo Spiazzi and Mariano Cordovani, all professors at the Pontificium Athenaeum Internationale Angelicum, the future Dominican Order-affiliated Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, had a great influence on the drafting of the encyclical.[5]

According to the encyclical, the Church has two aspects: one visible and one invisible. Those who live under the visible representative of Christ have full membership. Further, the relationship of the faithful and Christ is mystical, not physical. The faithful, through their faith, hope, and love, are united with Christ in the Church. Christ loves and lives in the faithful. Christ and the Church as the whole Church is made alive by the Holy Spirit, which also guides each of the faithful, and as such is an important element of the body of Christ. The unification with Christ takes place in the Holy Eucharist. Within the Church, there does not exist a bifurcated active and passive element (e.g. leadership and lay people), but rather all members of the Church are called to work on the perfection of the body of Christ.

New role of lay people

The encyclical teaches, that while lay people animate human society, the Successors of the Apostles (the Catholic Bishops) are to be responsible in matters of religion and morals. Until this encyclical of Pius XII, Church was considered as societas perfecta, a perfect society, consisting primarily of Pope, bishops, clergy and the religious. Mystici Corporis includes lay people as equal and important elements of the body of Christ. The faithful are united with Christ in the Church. Christ loves and lives in them. Christ is alive through the Holy Spirit.

  • Within the Church, there exist not an active and passive element, leadership and lay people. All members of the Church are called to work on the perfection of the body of Christ. ... Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church.[6]

Apostles and bishops

The encyclical states that Christ, while still on earth, instructed by precept, counsel and warnings "in words that shall never pass away, and will be spirit and life"[7] to all men of all times. He conferred a triple power on His Apostles and their successors, to teach, to govern, to lead men to holiness, making this power, defined by special ordinances, rights and obligations, the fundamental law of the whole Church.[8] God governs directly and guides personally the Church which He founded. Pius quoted Proverbs 21:1 noting that God reigns within the minds and hearts of men, and bends and subjects their wills to His good pleasure, even when rebellious.[9]

Mystici corporis requests the faithful to love their Church and to always see Christ in her, especially in the old and sick members. They must accustom themselves to see Christ Himself in the Church. For it is Christ who lives in His Church, and through her, teaches, governs, and sanctifies; it is Christ also who manifests Himself differently in different members of His society.

If the faithful strive to live in a spirit of lively faith, they will not only pay due honor and reverence "to the more exalted members" of this Mystical Body, especially those who according to Christ’s mandate will have to render an account of our souls, but they will take to their hearts those members who are the object of our Savior’s special love: the weak, the wounded, and the sick who are in need of material or spiritual assistance; children whose innocence is so easily exposed to danger in these days; and finally the poor, in helping whom is recognized the very person of Jesus Himself as a perfect model of love for the Church.[10]

Errors and condemnations

In brief, this document which sees the Church as the one and only means of salvation, has been challenged by the Documents of Vatican II, especially Lumen Gentium, where we read in 1,8, that the true Church of Christ subsists in this church, but elements can also be found in other Christian Churches. As a result, the view of the Roman Catholic Church as the ONLY means of salvation has been challenged and people seem to more and more identify with the latter rather than the former.

Exclusion on the basis of race or nationality

  • And first of all let us imitate the breadth of His love. For the Church, the Bride of Christ, is one; and yet so vast is the love of the divine Spouse that it embraces in His Bride the whole human race without exception. Our Saviour shed His Blood precisely in order that He might reconcile men to God through the Cross, and might constrain them to unite in one body, however widely they may differ in nationality and race. True love of the Church, therefore, requires not only that we should be mutually solicitous one for another[11] as members and sharing in their suffering[11] but likewise that we should recognize in other men, although they are not yet joined to us in the body of the Church, our brothers in Christ according to the flesh, called, together with us, to the same eternal salvation.[12]
  • There are some who extol enmity, hatred and spite as if they enhanced the dignity and the worth of man. Let us, however, while we look with sorrow on the disastrous consequences of this teaching, follow our peaceful King who taught us to love not only those who are of a different nation or race,[13] but even our enemies.[14]
  • While Our heart overflows with the sweetness of the teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles, We extol with him the length, and the breadth, and the height, and the depth of the charity of Christ,[15] which neither diversity of race or customs can diminish, nor trackless wastes of the ocean weaken, nor wars, whether just or unjust, destroy[12]

Murdering disabled people

  • Conscious of the obligations of Our high office We deem it necessary to reiterate this grave statement today, when to Our profound grief We see at times the deformed, the insane, and those suffering from hereditary disease deprived of their lives, as though they were a useless burden to Society; and this procedure is hailed by some as a manifestation of human progress, and as something that is entirely in accordance with the common good. Yet who that is possessed of sound judgment does not recognize that this not only violates the natural and the divine law[16] written in the heart of every man, but that it outrages the noblest instincts of humanity?
  • The blood of these unfortunate victims who are all the dearer to our Redeemer because they are deserving of greater pity, “cries to God from the earth".[17]

Forced conversions

Pope Pius XII condemns forced conversions in strong terms. These had been opposed by previous Popes such as Leo XIII,[18] and are in violation of existing Canon Law, the law of the Church.[19] Church membership and conversions must be voluntary. Regarding conversions, "We recognize that this must be done of their own free will; for no one believes unless he wills to believe."[20] Hence they are most certainly not genuine Christians who against their belief are forced to go into a church, to approach the altar and to[21] receive the Sacraments; for the "faith without which it is impossible to please God" [200] is an entirely free "submission of intellect and will."[22]

  • Therefore, whenever it happens, despite the constant teaching of this Apostolic See,[23] that anyone is compelled to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, Our sense of duty demands that We condemn the act.[24]

Mariology of Pope Pius XII

The encyclical concludes with a summary of the mariology of the Pope. The 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX defined the Virgin conceived without sin, as the mother of God and our mother. Pope Pius XII built on this in Mystici corporis: Mary, whose sinless soul was filled with the divine spirit of Jesus Christ above all other created souls, "in the name of the whole human race" gave her consent "for a spiritual marriage between the Son of God and human nature",[25] thus elevating human nature beyond the realm of the purely material. She who, according to the flesh, was the mother of our Head, became mother of all His members. Through her powerful prayers, she obtained that the spirit of our Divine Redeemer, should be bestowed on the newly founded Church at Pentecost.[26]

While the Early Fathers of the Church tended to contrast Eve's disobedience with Mary's fiat at the Annunciation, Pius looked rather to her presence at Calvary where "...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."[27] Pius viewed her compassion there as the basis for her role in redemption.[28]

She is Most Holy Mother of all the members of Christ, and reigns in heaven with her Son, her body and soul refulgent with heavenly glory.[26]

  • May she, then, the most holy Mother of all the members of Christ, to whose Immaculate Heart We have trustfully consecrated all mankind, and who now reigns in heaven with her Son, her body and soul refulgent with heavenly glory - may she never cease to beg from Him that streams of grace may flow from its exalted Head into all the members of the Mystical Body. May she give to the Church today, as in times gone by, the mantle of her protection and obtain from God, that now at last, the Church and all mankind may enjoy more peaceful days.[29]

Significance of Mystici corporis Christi

Theological views at the time

Mystici corporis did not receive much attention during the war years but became influential after World War II. It had rejected two extreme views of the Church.[30]

  1. A rationalistic or purely sociological understanding of the Church, according to which she is merely a human organization with structures and activities. The visible Church and its structures do exist but the Church is more, she is guided by the Holy Spirit: "Although the juridical principles, on which the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given to it by Christ and contribute to the attaining of its supernatural end, nevertheless that which lifts the Society of Christians far above the whole natural order is the Spirit of our Redeemer who penetrates and fills every part of the Church".[31]
  2. An exclusively mystical understanding of the Church is mistaken as well, because a mystical “Christ in us” union would deify its members and mean that the acts of Christians are simultaneously the acts of Christ. The theological concept una mystica persona, one mystical person refers not to an individual relation but to the unity of Christ with the Church and the unity of its members with Him in her.[32]

Relevance to Nazi Germany

Pius' statement of "profound grief" at the murder of the deformed, the insane, and those suffering from hereditary disease... as though they were a useless burden to Society" is a condemnation of the ongoing Nazi euthanasia program, under which disabled Germans were being removed from care facilities and murdered by the state as "life unworthy of life". It built upon the high-profile condemnations offered by the bishop of Munster, Clemens August Graf von Galen and others. It was followed, on 26 September 1943, by an open condemnation by the German Bishops which, from every German pulpit, denounced the killing of "innocent and defenceless mentally handicapped, incurably infirm and fatally wounded, innocent hostages, and disarmed prisoners of war and criminal offenders, people of a foreign race or descent".[33]

Secular institutes

The new role of the laity resulted in the foundation of numerous secular institutes with faithful members of all walks of life. Against significant difficulties and opposition from established religious orders, Pius XII issued in 1947 the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia,[34] which, for the first time in Church history, allowed lay people to form their own secular communities, and establish them within a newly established Canon Law framework. The Pope himself used the encyclical to encourage active participation of the laity by addressing a wide variety of groups and professional associations throughout the world.

Controversy at Vatican II

For many years, it was thought that Vatican II had made one significant exception to Mystici corporis.[35] The encyclical of Pope Pius stated that the Body of Christ is the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI quoted Mystici corporis from Pius XII verbatim in his first encyclical Ecclesiam suam: "Consider, then, this splendid utterance of Our predecessor: 'The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, a doctrine revealed originally from the lips of the Redeemer Himself...'" Pope Paul VI continues: "We wish to take up this invitation and to repeat it in this encyclical, for We consider it timely and urgent and relevant to the needs of the Church in our day."[36]

The Council defined that the Church subsists in (subsistit in) the Body of Christ.[37] This seemed to some theologians to relativize the identity of the one Catholic Church with the Body of Christ. Pope Paul VI, Pope Pius XII and all popes before him have taught complete identity.[38] After some confusion over what subsistit in meant, the Vatican in 2007 clarified its position as being identical with Pope Pius XII.[39] Leading Council theologians like Joseph Ratzinger and Henri de Lubac expanded on this.[40]

Ecumenical implications

Protestant theology since Martin Luther always rejected the Catholic view of the Church as one Church with both visible and invisible aspects, and with a Pope as the Successor of St. Peter. It employs instead the interpretation of the Bible as the sole source of orthodox theology (Sola Scriptura), yet its biblical interpretation of the mystical Body is different from the Catholic Church's doctrine as stated in Mystici corporis Christi: The Church receives all the graces from Christ its singular head prior to active participation. The doctrines of the mystical unity of the Catholic Church through engagement with the sacraments is thus rejected by most Protestants. However, Mystici corporis uses a biblical base for its teaching, and thus contributed to ecumenical dialogue with Protestantism, while still reaffirming that the Catholic Church is the one true Church. As well, in recent years, some Protestant theologians have returned to the doctrine of the "mystical body of Christ" afresh, often following the thought of Henri de Lubac in sympathetic fashion (Milbank, Suspended Middle, 2005; Boersma, Sacramental Ontology, 2009), and others have embraced the doctrine in a way which examines its development over time, and the call to ecclesiastical unity that it issues (Pecknold, Christianity and Politics, 2010).

The Eastern Orthodox churches share a tradition-based sacramental theology with the Catholic Church. Mystici corporis, establishing equality of all apostles under the Successor of Peter, instead of a supposed “papalist” Societas Perfecta, was viewed quite positively; even so, not all aspects were shared by all.[41] Pope Pius recognized, and often criticized, an over-centralized papacy and related Church laws and regulations, as an obstacle to relations with the Eastern Orthodox churches. After issuing Mystici corporis, the Pope ordered a reform of the CIC Orientalis, the Canon Law for the Eastern Catholic Churches united with Rome. In its new constitutions, Eastern Patriarchs were made much more autonomous[42] with regard to Eastern marriage law,[43] civil law,[44] laws governing religious associations,[45] property law[45] and other laws. These reforms were intended to provide for more independence to the Eastern Catholic Churches, establishing them as equal within the mystical body of Christ[8] and supplying a model for Eastern Orthodox churches if they decide to reunite with the Catholic Church.

Highlights of the encyclical

  • Our purpose is to show the beauty of the Church in its full light, the nobility of the faithful, who in the body of Christ are united with their head.[46]
  • We are not ignorant of the fact that His profound truth - of our union with the Divine Redeemer and in particular of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls - is shrouded in darkness by a veil that impedes our power to understand and explain it, both because of the hidden nature of the doctrine itself, and of the limitations of our human intellect.[47]
  • Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to Her members.[48]
  • And if at times, there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature, it should not be attributed to her juridical constitution, but rather to that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits even at times in the highest members of His Mystical Body, for the purpose of testing the virtue of the Shepherds no less than of the flocks, and that all may increase the merit of their Christian faith.[48]

See also


  1. ^ Mystici corporis Christi
  2. ^ AAS 1943, 193
  3. ^ La Cristologia in Italia 1930-1990, Sergio de Marchi, Piemme, 1994, P. Parente, De Verbo Incarnato, 1933, Hofmann, Der Kirchenbegriff des hl. Augustinus, München 1933, H. Käppeli, Zur Lehre des hl. Thomans von Aquin vom Corpus Christi Mysticum, Freiburg, 1931, E Mersch, Le Corps Mystique du Christ 2 Vol. Paris, 1936, A E Rawloson, Corpus Christi Mysticum, Berlin, 1931, Robinson, H Wheeler, The Cross of the Servant, London, 1926
  4. ^ Sebastian Tromp: Annotations ad enc MC Periodica 32, 1943, pp 377-401.
  5. ^ Kommentar zur Enzyklika "Mystici corporis" von Dr. David Berger (Die Tagespost, Nr. 76, 28.06.2003): "Innovation verlangt Treue zum Wesentlichen - Die Kirche ist übernatürlich und sichtbar zugleich - Vor sechzig Jahren erschien die Enzyklika 'Mystici corporis' von Papst Pius XII"; "Einsicht", Romisch-Katolische Zeitschrift, 34 Jajrgang, Nummer 2, Februar 2004, Muenchen, 40. "Bei der Abfassung der Enzyklika standen Pius Xu. bedeutende Gelehrte wie P. Hürth S.J. und die Dominikaner Garrigou-Lagrange, Spiazzi und Cordovani zur Seite, besonders aber der Jesuit Sebastian Tromp, der die Enzyklika nicht nur durch wichtige ekklesiologische Forschungen indirekt vorbereitete, sondern auch federführend an deren Redaktion beteiligt war.
  6. ^ Pius XII, Discourse, February 20, 1946:AAS 38 (1946) 149; quoted by John Paul II, CL 9.
  7. ^ Cf. John VI, 63.
  8. ^ a b Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 38
  9. ^ ."Proverbs, XXI, 1Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 39
  10. ^ Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 93
  11. ^ a b Cf. Rom., XII, 5; I Cor., XII, 25.
  12. ^ a b Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 96
  13. ^ Cf. Luke, X, 33-37
  14. ^ Cf. Luke, VI, 27-35; Matth., V, 44-48.
  15. ^ Cf. Eph., III, 18.
  16. ^ Cf. Decree of the Holy Office, 2 December 1940: A.A.S., 1940, p. 553.
  17. ^ Cf. Gen., IV, 10 Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 94
  18. ^ Cf. Leo XIII, Immortale Dei: A.S.S., XVIII, pp. 174-175
  19. ^ Cod. Iur. Can., c. 1351
  20. ^ Cf. August., In Ioann. Ev. tract., XXVI, 2: Migne, P.L. XXX, 1607.
  21. ^ Cf. August., In Ioann. Ev. tract., XXVI, 2: Migne, P.L. XXX, 1607
  22. ^ Vat. Counc. Const. de fide Cath., Cap. 3
  23. ^ Cf. Leo XIII, Immortale Dei: A.S.S., XVIII, pp. 174-175; Cod. Iur. Can., c. 1351
  24. ^ Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 104
  25. ^ Office for Holy Week
  26. ^ a b Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 110
  27. ^ Pope Pius XII. Mystici corporis Christi, §110, June 29, 1943, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  28. ^ Jelly, Frederic M., Madonna: Mary in the Catholic Tradition, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998 ISBN 9781579101954
  29. ^ Pius XII, Enc. Mystici çorporis Christi, §111
  30. ^ Heribert Mühlen, Una Mystica Persona, München, 1967, p.51
  31. ^ Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 63
  32. ^ S Tromp, Caput influit sensum et motum, Gregorianum, 1958, pp353-366
  33. ^ Richard J. Evans; The Third Reich at War; 2008 pp.529-30
  34. ^ Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, Vatican city, 1947
  35. ^ Lumen gentium, 7
  36. ^ Ecclesiam suam, 31
  37. ^ Lumen Gentium, 1,7.
  38. ^ Otto Hermann Pesch, das 2. Vatikanische Konzil, Echter, 1995, 219 ff
  39. ^ see Sebastian Tromp and "Subsistit in" in Lumen Gentium for details
  40. ^ Josef Ratzinger, Das neue Volk Gottes, Düsseldorf 1969, pp225-245; Henri de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum, Einsiedeln, 1969
  41. ^ At the height of the Cold War, there were notable divergences of view between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Western-based patriarchs
  42. ^ CIC Orientalis, 1957
  43. ^ CIC Orientalis, 1949
  44. ^ CIC Orientalis, 1950
  45. ^ a b CIC Orientalis, 1952
  46. ^ Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 11
  47. ^ Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 78
  48. ^ a b Pius XII, Enc. Mystici corporis Christi, 62


Armenian Rite

The Armenian Rite is an independent liturgy used by both the Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic Churches. It is also the rite used by a significant number of Eastern Catholic Christians in Georgia.

Body of Christ

In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two main but separate meanings: it may refer to Jesus' words over the bread at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in Luke 22:19–20, or to the usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12–14 and Ephesians 4:1–16 to refer to the Christian Church. It may also refer to Christ's post-resurrection body in Heaven. Christ also associated himself with the poor of the world and this is also called the Body of Christ.“If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.” said Pope Francis on launching the World Day of the Poor. There are significant differences in how Christians understand the term as used by Christ at the Last Supper and as developed in Christian theology of the Eucharist. For some it may be symbolic, for others it becomes a more literal or mystical understanding.

As used by Saint Paul in the Pauline epistles it refers to the Christian Church as a group of believers. In Roman Catholic theology the use of the phrase "mystical body" distinguishes the mystical body of Christ, the Church, from the physical body of Christ, and from a "moral body" such as any club with a common purpose.

Catholic ecclesiology

The ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is the area of Catholic theology covering the ecclesiology -- the nature, structure, and constitution -- of the Catholic Church itself on a metaphysical and revealed level.

Church invisible

The invisible church or church invisible is a theological concept of an "invisible" Christian Church of the elect who are known only to God, in contrast to the "visible church"—that is, the institutional body on earth which preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments. Every member of the invisible church is saved, while the visible church contains some individuals who are saved and others who are unsaved. According to this view, Bible passages such as Matthew 7:21-27, Matthew 13:24-30, and Matthew 24:29-51 speak about this distinction.

This concept has been attributed to St Augustine of Hippo as part of his refutation of the Donatist sect. He was strongly influenced by the Platonist belief that true reality is invisible and that, if the visible reflects the invisible, it does so only partially and imperfectly (see Theory of Forms). Others question whether Augustine really held to some form of an "invisible true Church" concept.The concept was insisted upon during the Protestant reformation as a way of distinguishing between the "visible" Roman Catholic Church, which according to the Reformers was corrupt, and those within it who truly believe, as well as true believers within their own denominations. John Calvin described the church invisible as "that which is actually in God's presence, into which no persons are received but those who are children of God by grace of adoption and true members of Christ by sanctification of the Holy Spirit... [The invisible church] includes not only the saints presently living on earth, but all the elect from the beginning of the world." He continues in contrasting this church with the church scattered throughout the world. "In this church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance..." (Institutes 4.1.7)

Pietism later took this a step further, with its formulation of ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("little churches within the church").

Roman Catholic theology, reacting against the Protestant concept of an invisible Church, emphasized the visible aspect of the Church founded by Christ, but in the twentieth century placed more stress on the interior life of the Church as a supernatural organism, identifying the Church, as in the encyclical Mystici corporis Christi of Pope Pius XII, with the Mystical Body of Christ. In Catholic doctrine, the one true Church is the visible society founded by Christ, namely, the Catholic Church under the global jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome. In his Mystici corporis Christi, Pope Pius XII noted, "The Church has two aspects, a visible and an invisible one."

This encyclical rejected two extreme views of the Church:

(1) A rationalistic or purely sociological understanding of the Church, according to which it is merely a human organization with structures and activities, is mistaken. The visible Church and its structures do exist but the Church is more, as it is guided by the Holy Spirit: Although the juridical principles, on which the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given to it by Christ and contribute to the attaining of its supernatural end, nevertheless that which lifts the Society of Christians far above the whole natural order is the Spirit of our Redeemer who penetrates and fills every part of the Church.

(2) An exclusively mystical understanding of the Church is mistaken as well, because a mystical "Christ in us" union would deify its members and mean that the acts of Christians are simultaneously the acts of Christ. The theological concept una mystica persona (one mystical person) refers not to an individual relation but to the unity of Christ with the Church and the unity of its members with him in her.Eastern Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky too characterizes as a "Nestorian ecclesiology" that which would "divide the Church into distinct beings: on the one hand a heavenly and invisible Church, alone true and absolute; on the other, the earthly Church (or rather 'the churches'), imperfect and relative".

Communitas perfecta

Communitas perfecta ("perfect community") or societas perfecta ("perfect society") is the Latin name given to one of several ecclesiological, canonical, and political theories of the Catholic Church. The doctrine teaches that the church is a self-sufficient or independent group which already has all the necessary resources and conditions to achieve its overall goal (final end) of the universal salvation of mankind. It has historically been used in order to define church–state relations and to provide a theoretical basis for the legislative powers of the church in the philosophy of canon law.

Corpus Mysticum

Corpus Mysticum: Essai sur L'Eucharistie et l’Église au moyen âge was a book written by Henri de Lubac, published in Paris in 1944. The book aimed to, in de Lubac's words, retrieve the doctrine that "the Church makes the eucharist and the eucharist makes the church".The book traces patristic and medieval uses of the Latin phrase corpus mysticum ("mystical body"). In de Lubac's time, especially as evidenced in Pope Pius XII's 1943 encyclical Mystici corporis Christi, this phrase was typically used to refer to the Church as the "mystical body" of Christ.

From his historical study, however, de Lubac argued that the phrase corpus mysticum referred initially to Christ's eucharistic body, and not to the visible Church as an institution. This association had been lost in the late medieval period. De Lubac argued that it was important to recover the pre-modern understanding of corpus mysticum, according to which Christ should be regarded as mystically present and at work where and when the eucharist was being celebrated.De Lubac's argument did not have great immediate impact, but was hugely influential in the eucharistic ecclesiology developed (or rehabilitated) at Vatican II.

Doctor Mellifluus

Doctor Mellifluus is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on the Doctor of the Church Bernard of Clairvaux, given at Rome, St. Peter's, on the 24th of May, on the feast of Pentecost, 1953, in the 15th year of his pontificate. In issuing it in anticipation of the eight centenary of Bernard's death, Pius took the occasion to highlight Bernard's contributions to practical spirituality.

Eastern canonical reforms of Pius XII

The Eastern canonical reforms of Pope Pius XII were the several reforms of Oriental canon law and the Codex Iuris Canonici Orientalis, applying mainly to the Oriental Churches united with the Latin Church in communion with the Roman Pontiff. The Holy See's policy in this area had always two objectives, the pastoral care of approximately ten million Christians united with Rome and the creation of positive ecumenical signals to the two-hundred and fifty million Orthodox Christians outside the Church of Rome.

Ingruentium malorum

Ingruentium malorum (English: In the face of approaching evils) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on reciting the rosary, issued on September 15, 1951, the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. "It is an appeal for an intensification of the traditional October Rosary devotions, making a particular recommendation for the family recitation of the Rosary, begging Our Lady to obtain peace for individuals, for families, for peoples, for nations, and for the Church throughout the world."

International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission

The International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission was a body appointed by the Holy See's Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 1999. With three Jewish and three Catholic scholars, the group evaluated Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, 11 volumes of the Vatican's wartime documents devoted to Pope Pius XII. In October 2000, the group issued a preliminary report with 47 questions on the Vatican's response to the Holocaust.

Mariology of the popes

The Mariology of the popes is the theological study of the influence that the popes have had on the development, formulation and transformation of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines and devotions relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The development of Mariology over the centuries has been influenced by a number of factors, among which papal directives have often represented key milestones. Examples of papal influences include new Marian feast days, prayers, acceptance of new Marian congregations, indulgences, support for Marian apparitions (e.g. Lourdes and Fatima) and declaration of Marian dogmas.

A number of popes have made Marian themes a key part of their papacy, e.g. Leo XIII issued a record eleven encyclicals on the rosary, Pius XII invoked the first (and to date only) case of ex cathedra papal infallibility to establish a Marian dogma and John Paul II built his personal coat of arms around the Marian Cross.Popes have also highlighted the key Catholic Mariological theme of the link between the study of Mary and the development of a full Christology, e.g. as in Pius XII's Mystici corporis Christi and John Paul II's Redemptoris Mater.

Nazi euthanasia and the Catholic Church

During the Second World War, the Roman Catholic Church protested against Aktion T4, the Nazi involuntary euthanasia programme under which the mentally ill, physically deformed, and incurably sick were to be killed. The protests formed one of the most significant public acts of Catholic resistance to Nazism undertaken within Germany. The euthanasia programme began in 1939, and ultimately resulted in the murder of more than 70,000 people who were senile, mentally handicapped, mentally ill, epileptics, cripples, children with Down's Syndrome, or people with similar afflictions. The murders involved interference in Church welfare institutions, and awareness of the murderous programme became widespread. Church leaders who opposed it – chiefly the Catholic Bishop Clemens August von Galen of Münster and Protestant Bishop Theophil Wurm – were therefore able to rouse widespread public opposition.

Catholic protests began in the summer of 1940. The Holy See declared on 2 December 1940 that the policy was contrary to natural and positive Divine law, and that: "The direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed." In the summer of 1941, protests were led in Germany by Bishop von Galen, whose intervention, according to Richard J. Evans, led to "the strongest, most explicit and most widespread protest movement against any policy since the beginning of the Third Reich." In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued the Mystici corporis Christi encyclical, in which he condemned the practice of killing the disabled. The Encyclical was followed, on 26 September 1943, by an open condemnation from the German Bishops which denounced the killing of innocent and defenceless people, whether mentally or physically handicapped, incurably infirm, fatally wounded, innocent hostages, disarmed prisoners of war, criminal offenders, or belonging to a different race.

One true church

A number of Christian denominations assert that they alone represent the one true church – the church to which Jesus gave his authority in the Great Commission. The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox communion and the Assyrian Church of the East each understands itself as the one and only original church. The claim to the title of the "one true church" relates to the first of the Four Marks of the Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church". The concept of schism somewhat moderates the competing claims between some churches – one can potentially repair schism. For example, the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches each regard the other as schismatic rather than heretical.Similarly, a number of groups, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), view apostolic succession as an essential element in constituting the one true church, arguing that it has inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority and responsibility that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles. Other groups, such as Iglesia ni Cristo, believe in a last-messenger doctrine, where no such succession takes place. A few believe they have restored the original church, in belief or in practice. The Seventh-day Adventist Church regards itself to be the one true church in the sense of being a faithful remnant.

Many mainstream Protestants regard all baptized Christians as members of the Christian Church; this belief is sometimes referred to by the theological term "invisible church". Some other Christians, such as Anglicans of Anglo-Catholic churchmanship, espouse a version of branch theory which teaches that the true Christian Church comprises Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Scandinavian Lutheran, and Roman Catholic branches.

Order of the Most Holy Annunciation

The Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Latin: Ordo SS. Annuntiationis), also known as the Turchine or Blue Nuns, is a Roman Catholic religious order of contemplative nuns formed in honour of the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ at Genoa, in Italy, by the Blessed Maria Vittoria De Fornari Strata.

Pope Clement VIII approved the religious order on 5 August 1604, placing it under the Rule of Saint Augustine.

At present, the order has monasteries in Brazil, France, Italy, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, and Spain.

People of God

People of God is a description that in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible applies to the Israelites and that the New Testament applies to Christians. Within the Catholic Church, it has been given greater prominence because of its employment in documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).

Public statements of Pope Pius XII on the Holocaust

The public statements of Pope Pius XII on the Holocaust, or lack thereof, are one of the most controversial elements of the historical debate about Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. Pius XII's statements have been scrutinized as much, if not more, than his actions during the same period. Pius XII's statements, both public and private, are quite well documented in the Vatican Secret Archives; eleven volumes of documents from his papacy were published between 1965 and 1981 in Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

Many of Pope Pius XII's critics have alleged "silence" by the pontiff during The Holocaust. Some of Pius XII's defenders have contested whether he was silent, while others have instead argued that to speak out would have been useless or counterproductive. According to Prof. Michael Phayer, "the question of the pope's silence has become the focus of intense historical debate and analysis".

Saeculo exeunte

Saeculo exeunte is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII in which he honors Portugal at the celebration of its 800th anniversary. A large part of the encyclical deals with the missionary activities of Portugal and the need to modernize missionary work. It was given at Rome, June 13, 1940, in the second year of his pontificate.

Summi Pontificatus

Summi Pontificatus is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII published on 20 October 1939. The encyclical is subtitled "On the Unity of Human Society." It was the first encyclical of Pius XII and was seen as setting "a tone" for his papacy. It critiques major errors at the time, such as ideologies of racism, cultural superiority and the totalitarian state. It also sets the theological framework for future encyclical letters, such as Mystici corporis Christi (1943). The encyclical laments the destruction of Poland, denounces the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and calls for a restoration of independent Poland.

Superior (hierarchy)

In a hierarchy or tree structure of any kind, a superior is an individual or position at a higher level in the hierarchy than another (a "subordinate" or "inferior"), and thus closer to the apex. In business, superiors are people who are supervisors and in the military, superiors are people who are higher in the chain of command (superior officer). Superiors are given, sometimes supreme, authority over others under their command. When an order is given, one must follow that order and obey it or punishment may be issued.

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