Magisterial Documents: Veritatis Splendor

Encyclical on the Splendor of Truth Pope John Paul II
6 August 1993

The full document is available on the internet.

Brief History

It was characteristic for Pope John Paul II to include in his trips to the nations an act of entrustment of the people to Mary. His Marian devotion and references are also found in specifically intended pro forma conclusions to other documents which thereby included the Marian dimension. Examples are found in the document, Christfideles Laici, On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World (1989), which was formulated as a prayer built on the Magnificat and the scene of the Cenacle, and Redemptoris Missio (1991), which includes a note on inculturation and Marian devotions particular to a people or an area. Both of the documents base their Marian reflections on Acts 1:14, Mary in the midst of the apostolic Church.

Veritatis Splendor reflects a somewhat different approach. The Marian section of the encyclical picks up and develops a theme previously published by Pope John Paul II in Dives in Misericordia, that is, Mary's share in Christ's mercy. Mary's mercy is discussed within the context of morality and new evangelization.

The document begins with the theme of light. Jesus Christ is the true light that enlightens everyone. (Jn 1:9) There are three main chapters. Chapter one establishes relationship to Christ as the basis for morality. Chapter two focuses on questions fundamental to morality: Law, Freedom and Law, Conscience and Truth, Fundamental Choice, and The Moral Act. Chapter three returns to the theme of Christ-centeredness and evangelization as the point of decision-making. We do what we do for the sake of Christ and relationship to him.

Then, almost as a surprise, the final chapter, articles 118 - 120, turns to Mary, Mother of Mercy. The conclusion of Veritatis Splendor is an act of entrustment of the moral life of the People of God to Mary, Mother of Mercy. The final paragraph consists of a prayer to Mary under this title. Although Mary does not know sin, she nevertheless knows and shares our human condition. In spite of all darkness, she remains completely open to God.

Veritatis Splendor links Mary's spiritual motherhood to the moral life: She understands sinful human beings and loves then with a mother's love. Precisely for this reason she is on the side of truth and shares the Church's burden in recalling always and to everyone the demands of morality. Nor does she permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her son would thus be emptied of its power. (VS 120)


Introduction: Jesus Christ, the True Light That Enlightens Everyone 1-5

Chapter 1: "Teacher, What Good Must I Do?" (Mt 19:16) 6-27

Chapter 2: "Do Not Be Conformed To This World" (Rom 12:2) 28-34
Freedom and Law 35-53
Conscience and Truth 54-64
Fundamental Choice 65-70
The Moral Act 71-83

Chapter 3: "Lest the Cross of Christ Be Emptied of Its Power"(1 Cor 1:17) 84-117
Morality and New Evangelization 106-108

Conclusion Mary, Mother of Mercy 118-120


AAS 85 (1993): 1134-1228;
Origins (October 14, 1993): 297-336.

© 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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