Pope Benedict XVI & Marian Devotion - Worship vs Reverence?



In His address to the general audience, Pope Benedict states the following:

“It was Jesus himself who entrusted them to each other before he died on the Cross, when he said to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” and to John, “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19: 26-27).
Archaeological research has shown that from time immemorial the site has been a place of Marian worship which is also dear to Muslims, who go there regularly to venerate the One they call “Meryem Ana”, Mother Mary.”

This has been used by non-Christians as evidence of actual worshipping of the Blessed Virgin. How best to refute such claims?

Than you for your thoughtful answers.


Worship in the example of Mary. Marian is an adjective, it is not the direct object. Regardless, there is past English use of the word worship as given to parents as the direct object, as another word for piety, ex. I gave my parents worship. If you want to get technical we explain the sense of the word as latria, which Saint Thomas Aquinas in his commentary to the Romans says latria is given to God alone, and this consists in sacrifices and oblations. Latria to Mary does not take place there.


This exact quote has been used in that manner?

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI did not give this address in English but, presumably, in Italian. In the Italian, he made reference not to Marian worship but to the “culto mariano.” In Catholicism a “cultus” is the particular devotion that surrounds a particular Saint, complete with all of its devotions and traditions and so forth.

Moreover, the English word worship has grown nuanced in meaning through the ages.

It is today treated as synonymous with what we Latins would call adoration, which is proper to God alone. It is almost exclusively a verb today. But it was originally a noun, and it described being in a state of worthiness. But as a verb, to worship someone was to acknowledge this worthiness, or the glory or the honor that was rightfully theirs. It was synonymous with “to honor.” (Frankly, it was more like dulia that is proper to people over us, like our parents or the President, and to the Saints and Angels, and quite unlike the *hyperdulia *which is Mary’s.)

This is why, even today, an English magistrate might be addressed as “Your Worship” in the same way an American judge is called “Your Honor.” The two terms are identical. This is also why some British livery companies have “worshipful” in their name. This is like saying something is “right honorable.”


I understand that for my part, but our Protestant brethren would see this coming from the Pope & take it as an admission of Mary worship - that, despite info to the contrary at worst - or even as Catholics showing grave inconsistency in their stated devotion to Our Lady.

In attempting to show the difference between worship & reverence, said quote came up, with comments regarding statues & crowns of gold for added emphasis. I’ll be honest: I’m not much for statues, but I like icons or mosaics, but most Protestants see statues as a throwback to paganism & are vehemently opposed to them as such.

Sorry, I posted this before noticing the other reply above.

Thank you again for your courteous & thoughtful reply.




Thank you.


Thank you. This is much appreciated because as a linguist, I understand the difficulties of interpreting/translating at times from one language to another.


As a point of clarification, does cultus in the Italian always refer to devotion, or can it also mean worship? I ask because I speak Spanish (another Romance language), & in said language, culto - in my experience - has been used to mean worship or Adoration - not like special devotion.

Thank you again.


I came across something in the writings of Cardinal Cajetan citing Augustine’s City of God which is worth mentioning about latria. He said, latria seems to come under religion. But Augustine says, ‘Latria is interpreted as service.’ (10, 1) But we ought to serve not God only, but our neighbor as well: ‘by charity of the spirit serve one another’. (Gal 5:13) Religion then implies relation to our neighbor."

I would say this contradicts my apparent reason of my prior post. Now, when people speak about latria they say it is directed to God alone, and hyperduila to Mary. My reason of latria in the prior post is directed by the common sense of how Catholic’s explain latria.


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