February 11, 2013, will be remembered as the day on which Pope
Benedict XVI announced that he would resign from the papacy. The day was
also the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 21st World Day of the Sick.
In his Latin-language letter naming Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health
Pastoral Care, as his special envoy to the solemn celebration of the
World Day of the Sick at the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting (Germany),
Pope Benedict entrusted the prelate’s mission “to the intercession of
the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate, Mediatrix of all graces” [intercessioni Beatae Virginis Mariae Immaculatae, Mediatricis omnium gratiarum].
Although the Second Vatican Council and numerous popes have invoked the
Blessed Virgin as “Mediatrix,” the papal use of the title “Mediatrix of
all graces” is far rarer. The phrase occurs most authoritatively in Caritate Christi Compulsi,
Pope Pius XI’s 1932 encyclical on the Sacred Heart, and has appeared on
a handful of other occasions in documents issued by Pope Benedict XV,
Pope Pius XI, Venerable Pius XII, and Blessed John XXIII.
In documents issued in 1979, 1980, and 1987, Blessed John Paul II raised
churches dedicated under this title to cathedral or basilica status and
referred to the Blessed Virgin in one of the documents (the 1987
apostolic constitution Frequentissimae) as the “most chaste Mediatrix of all graces.”
The late Father William Most has shown that Pope Leo XIII and subsequent
popes have also used similar terminology to describe the Blessed
Virgin’s maternal mediation.