Mystici corporis Christi (English: 'The Mystical Body of Christ') is a papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII on 29 June 1943 during World War II.It is one of the more important encyclicals of Pius XII because of its topic, the Church, which was strongly debated and further developed in the Second Vatican Council document on the Church, Lumen gentium .
Mystici corporis identified the earthly presence of this body with the Catholic Church, at a time of much theological debate on the meaning of 'Mystical Body'. While the Holocaust is not explicitly mentioned, the earthly effects of being a part of this body are clearly emphasized.
According to the Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles, Mystici corporis was "the most comprehensive official Catholic pronouncement on the Church prior to Vatican II."Its primary writer Sebastiaan Tromp drew mainly on the first schema of Vatican I and on the encyclicals of Leo XIII. It de-emphasized papal jurisdiction but insisted on the visibility of the church, warning against an excessively mystical understanding of the union between Christ and the Church.
The encyclical is principally remembered for its statement that the Mystical Body is identical with the Roman Catholic Church, repeated by Pius XII in Humani generis (1950) in response to dissension. According to Mystici corporis, to be truly (reapse) a member of the Mystical Body one must be a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Other Christians who erred in good faith could be unsuspectingly united to the Mystical Body by an unconscious desire and longing (inscio quodam desiderio ac voto).
The encyclical builds on a theological development in the 1920s and 1930s in Italy, France, Germany and England, which all re-discovered the Pauline concept of the Mystical Body of Christ.In 1936, Emile Mersch had warned of some false mysticisms being advanced with regard to the mystical body, and his history of this topic was seen as influencing the encyclical. On 18 January 1943, five months before the promulgation of Mystici corporis, Archbishop Conrad Gröber of Fribourg promulgated a letter in which he addressed the docetic tendencies of some mystical body theology (to separate the spiritual and the material elements in man). Timothy Gabrielli saw Pius' emphasis on the church as a perfect society on earth as an attempt to save the mystical body theology, with its many theological, pastoral, and spiritual benefits, from the danger of docetism.
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.
The encyclical teaches that both lay people and the leadership have a role to play in the Church. Lay people are at the forefront of the Church, and have to be aware of 'being the Church', not just 'belonging to the Church'. At the same time, the Pope and bishops are responsible for providing leadership for all the faithful. Together, they are the Church and work for the good of the Church.
In 1947, Pius XII later issued the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia , which allowed lay people to form their own secular communities, and establish them within a newly established Canon Law framework.
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"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. God governs directly and guides personally the Church which He founded. Pius XII 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.
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.
Pius XII wrote: "The Church of God … is despised and hated maliciously by those who shut their eyes to the light of Christian wisdom and miserably return to the teachings, customs and practices of ancient paganism." He quoted the book of Wisdom to the effect that "a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule. ...The mighty shall be mightily tormented. ...A greater punishment is ready for the more mighty."Ronald Rychlak has described the encyclical as "an obvious attack on the theoretical basis of National Socialism."
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" was 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".
Pius XII appealed to "Catholics the world over" to "look to the Vicar of Jesus Christ as the loving Father of them all, who… takes upon himself with all his strength the defense of truth, justice and charity." He explained, "Our paternal love embraces all peoples, whatever their nationality or race." Christ, by his blood, made the Jews and Gentiles one "breaking down the middle wall of partition… in his flesh by which the two peoples were divided." He noted that Jews were among the first people to adore Jesus. Pius then made an appeal for all to "follow our peaceful King who taught us to love not only those who are of a different nation or race, but even our enemies." Pinchas E. Lapide, the Israeli consul in Italy, wrote: "Pius chose mystical theology as a cloak for a message which no cleric or educated Christian could possibly misunderstand."
In the United States, it would be seen as a critique of any kind of prejudice against African-Americans.
Mystici corporis Christi strongly condemned the forced conversions to Catholicism that were then occurring in Fascist Croatia.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." 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 receive the Sacraments; for the "faith without which it is impossible to please God" is an entirely free "submission of intellect and will."
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",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.
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."Pius viewed her compassion there as the basis for her role in redemption.
If the Mother of God was born as the "second Eve", the Church was born as the "new Eve". Pius XII repeated that, according to "unanimous teaching" of the holy Fathers and the magisterium of Christ, the "Church was born from the side of our Savior on the Cross like a new Eve, mother of all the living."
The encyclical is principally remembered for its statement that the Mystical Body is identical with the Roman Catholic Church, repeated by Pius XII in Humani generis (1950) in response to dissension. According to Mystici corporis, to be truly (reapse) a member of the Mystical Body one must be a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Other Christians who erred in good faith could be unsuspectingly united to the Mystical Body by an unconscious desire and longing (inscio quodam desiderio ac voto). In 1947, Pius XII wrote the encyclical Mediator Dei which acknowledged that baptized Christians were members of the Mystical Body and participated in Christ's priestly office.
During the Second Vatican Council, Yves Congar argued that the term ecclesia ('church') concerned the people "called forth", the People of God, those over whom God reigns. "Body of Christ" then would emphasize the special union with the risen Christ that came with the new covenant. Congar was later denounced by the Holy Office for describing the Church as essentially a community in the Spirit, a gathering of the faithful.
The Second Vatican Council would later define in Lumen gentium that the Church subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church. Dulles argues this to be "an expression deliberately chosen to allow for the ecclesial reality of other Christian communities", implying that non-Catholic Christians are members of the Body of Christ, and thus of the Church.
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 celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover that "This is my body" in Luke 22:19–20, or it may refer to all individuals who are "in Christ" 1 Corinthians 12:12–14.
Catholic Mariology refers to Mariology—the systematic study of the person of Mary, mother of Jesus, and of her place in the Economy of Salvation—within Catholic theology. Mary is seen as having a singular dignity above the saints. The Catholic Church teaches that she was conceived without original sin, therefore receiving a higher level of veneration than all other saints. Catholic Mariology thus studies not only her life but also the veneration of her in daily life, prayer, hymns, art, music, and architecture in modern and ancient Christianity throughout the ages.
Humani generis is a papal encyclical that Pope Pius XII promulgated on 12 August 1950 "concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine". Theological opinions and doctrines known as Nouvelle Théologie or neo-modernism and their consequences on the Church were its primary subject. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877–1964), professor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas Angelicum, is said to have been a dominant influence on the content of the encyclical.
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.
Co-Redemptrix is a title used by some Roman Catholics for the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as a Catholic theological concept referring to Mary's role in the redemption of all peoples. It has always been controversial and has never formed part of the dogma of the Church. According to those who use the term, Co-Redemptrix refers to a subordinate but essential participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption, notably that she gave free consent to give life to the Redeemer, which meant sharing his life, suffering, and death, which were redemptive for the world. Related to this belief is the concept of Mary as Mediatrix, which is a separate concept but regularly included by Catholics who use the title Co-Redemptrix.
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.
Mediator Dei, a papal encyclical, was issued by Pope Pius XII on 20 November 1947. It was the first encyclical devoted entirely to liturgy. The encyclical suggested new directions and active participation instead of a merely passive role for the faithful in the liturgy, in liturgical ceremonies and in the life of their parish. The encyclical also emphasized the importance of the Eucharist. Mediator Dei is one of the more important encyclicals of Pope Pius XII. The encyclical condemned certain excesses of liturgical reform and stressed the importance of the union of sacrifice and altar with communion, which greatly directed the reforms undertaken during and after Vatican II. It was written in part in response to the liturgical movement under way since early in the 20th century.
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.
The late years of the pontificate, of Pope Pius XII were characterized by a hesitancy in personnel decisions. After a major illness in 1954, he redirected his energies from Vatican clergy to the concerns of lay people.
Sebastiaan Peter Cornelis Tromp was a Dutch Jesuit priest, theologian, and Latinist, who is best known for assisting Pope Pius XII in his theological encyclicals, and Pope John XXIII in the preparation for Vatican II. He was an assistant to Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani during the Council and professor of Catholic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University from 1929 until 1967.
Ad Caeli Reginam is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII, given at Rome, from St. Peter's Basilica, on the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the eleventh day of October, 1954, in the sixteenth year of his Pontificate. The encyclical is an important element of the Mariology of Pope Pius XII. It established the feast Queenship of Mary.
Fulgens corona is an encyclical by Pope Pius XII, given at St. Peter's, Rome, on 8 September 1953, on the Birthday of the Virgin Mary, the fifteenth year of his Pontificate. The encyclical proclaims a Marian year for 1954, to commemorate the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Fulgens corona is significant as it contained the mariological methodology of Pope Pius XII and his views on limits and challenges of mariology.
The theology of Pope Pius XII is reflected in his forty-one encyclicals, as well as speeches and nearly 1000 messages, during his almost 20-year pontificate. The encyclicals Mystici corporis and Mediator Dei advanced the Catholic understanding of membership and participation in the Church. The encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu began opening the door to historical-critical biblical studies. But his magisterium was far larger and is difficult to summarize. In numerous speeches Catholic teaching is related to various aspects of life, education, medicine, politics, war and peace, the life of saints, Mary, the mother of God, things eternal and temporal.
Ingruentium malorum 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."
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.
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.
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.
Le pèlerinage de Lourdes is the only encyclical of Pope Pius XII issued in French. It includes warnings against materialism on the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes. It was given at Rome, from St. Peter's Basilica, on the feast of the Visitation of the Most Holy Virgin, July 2, 1957, the nineteenth year of his pontificate.
Ecclesiam suam is an encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Catholic Church given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1964, the second year of his Pontificate. It is considered an important document, which identified the Catholic Church with the Body of Christ. A later Council document Lumen gentium stated that the Church subsists in the Body of Christ, raising questions as to the difference between is and subsists in.
Catholic ecclesiology is the theological study of the Catholic Church, its nature and organization, as described in revelation or in philosophy. Such study shows a progressive development over time. Here the focus is on the time leading into and since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).