Christians nationwide are expressing concerns following Wednesday’s Catholic observance of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary — one of a number of holidays on the liturgical calendar — and are emphasizing the need for evangelism.
On the Roman Catholic holiday, Pope Benedict addressed a crowd of international followers at the courtyard of the Castel Gandalfo in Rome, declaring that Christians should look to Mary to find answers in life, and that prayers should continually be sent to her.
“I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience, especially the groups from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Japan and the United States of America. I also greet the young altar servers from Malta and their families,” he stated. “Today the church celebrates the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the prayers of our Lady guide us along our pilgrimage of faith, that we may share in her Son’s victory and reign with him in his eternal Kingdom.”
“Devotion to Our Lady is an important part of spiritual life,” he continued. “She will not fail to intercede for us with her Son. .. [Mary is] queen in the service of God to humanity, [and] is queen of the love that lives the gift of self to God [in order] to enter into the plan of salvation of man.”
Benedict claimed that the love of Mary is manifested through her “watching over us, her children, the children who come to her in prayer, to thank her or to ask for her maternal protection and heavenly help, perhaps after having lost their way, burdened with grief or anguish amid the sad and troubled vicissitudes of life.”
The “Feast of the Queenship of Mary” was established by Pope Pius XII in 1954, and was originally celebrated on May 31st. In a radio address announcing his reasons for the occasion, he stated, “[T]he Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship, for, having been associated to the King of Martyrs in the unspeakable work of human redemption as Mother and cooperator, she remains forever associated to Him, with a practically unlimited power in the distribution of the graces which flow from the redemption.”
The Catholic television network EWTN further explained, “Pius XII added that ‘nothing is excluded from her dominion.’ As Mediatrix of all graces, who shared in earning all graces, she is, as Benedict XV said…, ‘suppliant omnipotence’: she can obtain by her intercession anything that the all-powerful God can do by His own inherent power.”
However, the date was later changed by Pope Paul VI to August 22nd, in order to place it eight days after the observance of the Assumption, a date marking Mary’s purported ascension into Heaven. Catholics believe that at the end of Mary’s life, she was received into Heaven both body and spirit. Pope Paul John Paul II explained in 2004 that when Christ said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also,” Mary became the ‘pledge’ to the promise.
Pope Benedict stated that the placement of the Feast adjacent to the assumption demonstrates what he called “the close link between Mary’s royal nature and her glorification in body and soul beside her Son.”
“To him who rules the world and holds the destinies of the universe, we turn with confidence, through the Virgin Mary,” he said.
However, most evangelical Christians have nothing to do with the observance and many condemn it. Some have never heard of the holiday.
“It’s just a manifestation of idolatry,” Matt Slick, president of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) told Christian News Network. “The Roman Catholic Church has elevated Mary to a goddess. … They’ve even said that she participated in the atonement.”
“Catholics place undo emphasis on Mary and give her glories reserved only for God,” said Robert Thomas of Ex-Catholic Baptist. “Any undo exaltation of Mary is repulsive to a true Bible believing Christian who desires to see the Lord Jesus Christ alone exalted. … The Scriptures clearly teach that Mary was a sinner and therefore needed a Savior, [but under] Pius XII, Catholics are required to believe under the pain of mortal sin that Mary was crowned Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Universe. … [W]here is the Scriptural proof for that?”
“She’s a recipient of the grace of God, just as any Christian is a recipient of the grace of God,” added Pastor Jon Speed of the Log College and Christ is King Baptist Church in Syracuse, New York. “We’re all highly favored. We’re beloved. Every believer who is in Christ is in the same position as Mary.”
The evangelists state, however, that they are not only concerned with the Vatican’s emphasis on Mary, but also a number of other doctrines that conflict with the heart of the Gospel.
“We are told in Scripture that if anyone adds any words to salvation, they don’t have salvation,” Slick said. “The Roman Catholic Church says that salvation by faith alone is heresy.”
“[The main question is] ‘Where do you get your righteousness from?'” Speed noted. “No matter where they are in the spectrum of Catholicism, that’s going to be the main issue.”
“The Roman Catholic church, like the Pharisees, contradicts the Holy Scriptures with its dogmas. Every teaching and tradition that is contrary to the inspired Word of God we reject on the authority of the Scriptures,” stated Thomas. “Rome in all actuality, nullifies or destroys God’s holy word with her unscriptural traditions of men.”
Speed said that he sees Roman Catholicism as being a “huge mission field.”
“Everybody’s afraid to say that Roman Catholics are not Christians, and that if you make that statement, you are perceived as unloving or old school,” he stated. “But, either we’re trying to hide what we believe about the Gospel, or we don’t really believe it.”
“Sharing the Gospel with a Catholic is like sharing the Gospel with anyone else,” Speed added. “Just go out and start a conversation with someone and give them something to read for Catholics, and ask them if they will read it.”
“One of the best things I’ve come across in years is to ask [them if they] will they pray and ask Jesus to forgive their sins,” he said, explaining that usually there is much hesitation to do so. “So, they can never just come to Jesus, and it’s because the Roman Catholic Church is apostate. It teaches another Gospel. … The obligation the Roman Catholic Church puts upon their members is an impossible Gospel.”
He added that most Christians, however, do not know how to articulate the Gospel, and need to study the Scriptures and share them with others.
“There are some very helpful resources,” Speed said, noting that Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries offers a variety of materials to Christians who want to learn more about how to share their faith with Roman Catholics.
According to the liturgical calendar, today is the Catholic Feast of St. Bartholomew.