Magisterial Documents: Redemptor Hominis

Encyclical on the Redeemer of Man Pope John Paul II
4 March 1979

The full document is available on the internet.

Brief History

Pope John Paul II was elected on October 16, 1978. From the onset of his papacy his devotedness to the Blessed Virgin Mary was evident. Already in his acceptance of the election he said, "So I come before you all to proclaim our common faith, our hope, our trust in the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, also, to make a new beginning on the road of history and of the Church, with the help of God and the help of men." [The Pope Speaks 24:1 (1979): 4.] From the start, John Paul II nearly always incorporated references to Mary in his writings.

The Marian content of Redemptor Hominis comes at the conclusion of the document in article 22. It is more extensive than a usual ending that includes Mary because it is customary to do so. Redemptor Hominis's conclusion indicates the direction the Pope will follow, also in future documents, that Mary is integral to the doctrine on the Church by her life and actions, which were/are entirely centered on Christ, Mary constantly gives birth to the Church, and because of this she is a pattern for our own daily lives and actions.

The point of the Marian article is to call upon Mary as mother and for the Church to see itself as mother, as Christ-bearer and Christ-bringer for the world. First, Pope John Paul II offers gratitude for Lumen Gentium "with the rich Mariological doctrine contained in it." He then refers to the widespread recognition and use of the expression proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, Mother of the Church. Mary is Mother of the Church because she was chosen and because of the Holy Spirit's special action on her. According to Redemptor Hominis, Mary can lead us into the divine and human dimension of the mystery of redemption like no other, since she intimately experienced it.

Redemptor Hominis teaches that Mary was part of the Church, mother to the Church, from the very beginning. This is expressed in a twofold way: at Pentecost, but also from the Annunciation on. The text states, "Later, all the generations of disciples, of those who confess and love Christ, like the Apostle John, spiritually took this mother to their own homes, and she was thus included in the history of salvation and in the Church's mission from the very beginning, that is from the moment of the Annunciation."

Redemptor Hominis explains that Mary becomes the measure of the God- filled, Christ-centered life lived in an ordinary way. When Mary is present "the Church acquires certainty that she is truly living the life of her Master and Lord and that she is living the mystery of the Redemption in all its life-giving profundity and fullness." When each person is Church in the fullest sense of the word, the motherly presence of those who share intimate relationship to Christ will bring him close to the People of God everywhere.

In a unique, familiar way, the pope concludes the encyclical by asking Mary to pray for the Church, "Above all, I implore Mary, the heavenly Mother of the Church, to be so good as to devote herself to this prayer of humanity's new Advent, together with us who make up the Church, that is to say the Mystical Body of her only Son." (RH 22)


I. Inheritance

At the Close of the Second Millennium
The First Words of the New Pontificate
Trust in the Spirit of Truth and of Love
Reference to Paul VI's First Encyclical
Collegiality and Apostolate
The Road to Christian Unity

II. The Mystery of the Redemption

Within the Mystery of Christ
Redemption as a New Creation
The Divine Dimension of the Mystery of the Redemption
The Human Dimension of the Mystery of the Redemption
The Mystery of Christ as the Basis of the Church's Mission and of Christianity
The Church's Mission and Human Freedom

III. Redeemed Man and His Situation in the Modern World

Christ United Himself with Each Man
For the Church All Ways Lead to Man
What Modern Man Is Afraid of
Progress or Threat
Human Rights "Letter" or "Spirit"

IV. The Church's Mission and Man's Destiny

The Church as Concerned for Man's Vocation in Christ
The Church as Responsible for Truth
Eucharist and Penance
The Christian Vocation to Service and Kingship
The Mother in Whom We Trust

Note: All Marian quotes are taken from the final article of the document.


AAS 71 (1979): 257-324;
St. Paul Editions, 1979: 257-324

© 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.

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