Why a Statue and
Why Crown It?
by Most Rev. John Venancio
It is said that all the heresies of today are resurrected heresies of the past with new names.
While the suppression of holy images today is not called iconoclasm, it echoes that same heresy which was condemned by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. From Apostolic times holy images and their proper devotional use have been an integral part of the Church and the Council of Nicea in 787 confirmed this.
From the Catacombs
Most frequently used images (from the catacombs to the lavish decor of the Thirteenth Century Cathedrals) are of Our Lord and of Our Lady.
Indeed a traditional devotion to Mary (which we should follow by virtue of paragraph 67 of the Constitution of the Church promulgated by Vatican Council II) has been the recognition of the Queenship of Mary through the coronation of Her images.
Picture by St. Luke
Many Popes crowned especially the picture reputed to have been painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist, and which is venerated in Saint Mary Major’s in Rome. Pope Clement VIII did so at the very height of the Reformation, at the end of the 16th Century, when the honoring of Our Lady’s images was again being called into question as it had been at the time of the Second Council of Nicea. And Gregory XVI, surrounded by Cardinals and prelates, solemnly crowned the same picture on August 15, 1837, and issued an Apostolic brief, Caelestis Regina, which has supplied a form for such coronations ever since.
Perhaps the most solemn act of the coronation of Our Lady by that same image in St. Mary Major’s was reserved for our day. It had two phases: one in Fatima and one in Rome.
In 1946, Pope Pius XII sent Cardinal Masella to Fatima to crown the statue at the place where Our Lady had appeared in 1917 with a promise of world peace. As the Cardinal was about to leave Rome, the Pope said to him:
“Be mindful, Eminence, you are going to crown the Queen of the World.”
It was only eight years later that the world fully understood how profoundly the Pope meant this.
In 1954 when the same Pontiff proclaimed a “Marian Year” in honor of the centenary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, His Holiness asked for the erection of shrines and images of Our Lady in public places. As a result, today statues and shrines of Our Lady are to be seen in the gardens of private homes, at turns of the highway, even at the entrance of some major airports of the world (as in Shannon and Buenos Aires). And in November, 1954, the Holy Father closed that “Marian Year” in a most extraordinary way.
Instead of going to St. Mary Major’s to crown the image of Our Lady, as so many of his predecessors had done, the Pope ordered that the venerable picture attributed to St. Luke be taken from its place and carried processionally (it was accompanied by tens of thousands of people) to St. Peter’s! There, on the altar over the tomb of Peter, the Pope solemnly crowned the picture and promulgated the Encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam.
To the astonishment of all, the Pope … on this most solemn occasion … recalled the statue at Fatima which he had crowned (through Cardinal Masella in 1946) as the MESSENGER OF HER ROYALTY. His Holiness said: “It is in the recognition of the Queenship of Mary that the world will find its greatest source of hope.”
As the Auxiliary Bishop of Fatima at that time, I was present with a banner from the Sanctuary of Fatima because the Pope had also asked that banners be there from all Marian Sanctuaries, and there were hundreds. On each the Pope affixed a commemorative medal. Many may wonder why the Holy Father did this and why he referred especially to the statue of Our Lady of Fatima as the MESSENGER OF HER ROYALTY.
The Pilgrim Virgin
After Pope Pius had crowned the statue at Fatima in 1946, a youth congress at Fatima asked that a copy of the statue, crowned by the Pope’s Legate, be carried processionally towards Russia.
My predecessor as Bishop of Fatima, Don Jose Correia da Silva, after consulting with Lucia sent forth a statue which became known as the “Pilgrim Virgin”.
Wonders occurred. Doves, flying wild in the sky, came and rested at Her feet. Cures occurred. And while the statue was in Rome on its way to the Orient, in 1950, the Pope saw a reenactment of the miracle of the sun over the Vatican. In 1951, in a broadcast from the Vatican relayed to the world and to hundreds of thousands of people gathered at Fatima on that occasion, the Pope said:
“In 1946, I crowned Our Lady at Fatima Queen of the World, and the following year, as the Pilgrim Virgin. She went forth (as though to claim Her Dominion) and the favors She performs along the way are such that we can hardly believe what we are seeing with our eyes.”
Act of Consecration
Today, as the Pilgrim Virgin enters diocese upon diocese throughout the world, She is crowned by Bishops and pastors and by the faithful.
This crowning of Our Lady is an acknowledgment of our fealty to Her. We acknowledge that, as a Queen, She has all rights over us.
Pope Pius said that in this devotion lies the world’s greatest hope of peace. We pray that, through the presence of this image of your Queen, each soul will experience Her Motherly and Queenly presence. We pray that She will lead and preserve your nation forever into the peace of Her Son, Our Savior, Christ.