Skip to main content

Magisterial Documents: Marialis Cultus

Magisterial Documents: Marialis Cultus

Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary Pope Paul VI

2 February 1974 

The full document is available on the internet.

Brief History

On February 2, 1974 a feast day which received a name change in the post-Vatican II liturgical reform and hence a shift from its connotation as a Marian feast day to a Christ-centered celebration Pope Paul VI chose to publish a Marian document for the right ordering and development of the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The choice was significant, the Church of the time was very much in need of this exhortation regarding the mounting Marian crises in the universal Church. Pope Paul VI wrote the exhortation to his fellow bishops and insisted that the bishops counsel, persuade, entreat, admonish, urge words used within the document the people to take notice of this troubled aspect of our tradition.

Marialis Cultus is not a document about Mary's person and role as such, but about the way the Church celebrates liturgies that commemorate Mary and about Marian devotion. The document took four years to prepare before its publication in 1974. Marialis Cultus was influenced by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II, even though the Constitution has only one reference to Mary in paragraph 103. Article 103 tells of the love of the Church for Mary and the inseparable bond linking Mary to her son's saving work. These themes occur repeatedly in Marialis Cultus. The second major influence was Lumen Gentium's chapter 8.

Johann G. Roten, S.M. writes that Lumen Gentium and Marialis Cultus have differing points of departure. Roten states, "The Council's theology of Mary is based primarily on the biblical narrative of her relation to Christ and his Church, whereas Marialis Cultus uses more personalist language to rekindle and deepen the memory of Mary." [John G. Roten, S.M., "Memory and Mission: A Theological Reflection on Mary in the Paschal Mysteries," Marian Studies 42 (1991): 86.]

Marialis Cultus was a response to 'the Marian crisis' of the time, the question whether Marian devotion would be compatible with the orientations of Vatican II. In Roten's perspective, "Lumen Gentium and Marialis Cultus are significantly the same: they both attempt to retrieve the living memory of Mary." Lumen Gentium concentrates on knowing the memoria; [whereas] Marialis Cultus "concentrates on the memoria itself, that is, on how it can be reached in and through her." [Roten, 86]

Marialis Cultus' introduction situates the initial Vatican II reforms in a positive light. At the same time, the Pope speaks of his "vigilant solicitude" to see that the renewal continues in an orderly way "in spirit and truth." (cf. Jn 4:24) [MC Introduction]

There are two major divisions of the document:

1) what has taken place in Marian devotion and why
2) what should/will take place in future, including two examples of devotion that bridge the past and are valid in the future, the Angelus and the Rosary.

Part one discusses the Blessed Virgin in the Revised Roman Liturgy. In the first section of part one, the new elements in the liturgical reform of Vatican II are listed. The liturgical changes increase the number of Marian options compared to before the reform. In the second section of part one, the Blessed Virgin is presented as the model of the Church in divine worship, "namely, Mary as a model of the spiritual attitude with which the Church celebrates and lives the divine mysteries." [MC 16] Mary is the attentive Virgin, the Virgin in prayer, the believing and obeying Virgin-Mother, and the Virgin presenting offerings.

Part two is titled "The Renewal of Devotion to Mary." In regard to Marian devotion, the principles and guidelines set down for renewal also affect the catechetical process. Section one treats the trinitarian, Christological and ecclesial aspects of devotion to Mary. Section two gives four guidelines for devotion to Mary which have since become the key orientation in the teaching process about Mary. These are the biblical, liturgical, ecumenical and anthropological elements to be taken into consideration when teaching Marian doctrine.

A third part of the document explains the Angelus and the Rosary. [MC 40- 55] After encouraging the recitation of the Angelus prayer, fourteen articles are devoted to discussion on the Rosary devotion. The conclusion to Marialis Cultus discusses the value, theologically and pastorally, of devotion to the Blessed Virgin. [MC 56-57] The exhortation sought to integrate devotion to Mary into the pastoral catechetical process, especially in liturgical catechesis, in a manner harmonious with the reforms of Vatican II. The document's norms and guidelines, provide an enduring framework for Marian catechesis.


Introduction pp. 3-6
I. Devotion to the BVM in the Liturgy 1
I.1. The BVM in the Revised Roman Liturgy 2-15
I.2. The BV as the Model of the Church in Divine Worship 16-23
II. The Renewal of Devotion to Mary 24
II.1. Trinitarian, Christological and Ecclesial Aspect of Devotion to the BV 25-28
II.2. Four Guidelines for Devotion to the BV: Biblical, Liturgical, Ecumenical and Anthropological 29-39
[Note: Though these four guidelines are essential, some of the material, especially the liturgical, will have already been graphed in detail. Therefore, the context will be indicated only by the initials B, L, E, A to indicate the framework of the teaching.]
III. Observations on Two Exercises of Piety: The Angelus and the Rosary 40
The Angelus 41
The Rosary 42-55
Conclusion Theological and Pastoral Value of Devotion to the BV 56-57
Epilogue 58


AAS 66 (1974):113-168; St Paul Editions, 1974
This official Vatican translation taken from L'Osservatore Romano, English Weekly Edition, 4-4-74

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2005.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


Marian Library

Roesch Library
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1390

Study Mary

Study the theology and history of Mary at the University of Dayton.

Learn More

Keyword Search

Would you like to begin a new keyword search?

Get Started