WASHINGTON (October 17, 2002) -- On the day marking the beginning of the 25th year of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II issued an historic Apostolic Letter on the Rosary. To make the centuries-old Catholic prayer more fully "a compendium of the Gospel," the Pope has added five additional mysteries, called "mysteries of light." This expansion marks the first such change in the Rosary in more than 430 years.
The Holy Father"s Apostolic Letter, The Rosary of the Virgin Mary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae), was released at the Vatican on October 16. It was on October 16, 1978 that John Paul II was elected to the papacy. His pontificate has now become one of the longest in the history of the Church.
In the Apostolic Letter, the Holy Father said he wanted to bring out more fully the Christological depth of the Rosary. Accordingly, he has broadened the traditional pattern of the Rosary to include the mysteries of Christ"s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion.
Quoting the Gospel of John, Pope John Paul II writes: "It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.""
"Consequently, for the Rosary to become more fully "a compendium of the Gospel," it is fitting to add, following a reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and the triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries), a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light)," the Pope wrote. "The addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer"s traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the rosary"s place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory."
The "mysteries of light" focus on Christ"s Baptism in the Jordan; his self-manifestation at the wedding at Cana; his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion; his Transfiguration; and his institution of the Eucharist.
In the Letter, the Holy Father announced the start of a Year of the Rosary"October 2002 to October 2003-during which the Rosary should be especially emphasized and promoted in the various Christian communities. "The Rosary, reclaimed in its full meaning, goes to the very heart of Christian life; it offers a familiar yet fruitful spiritual and educational opportunity for personal contemplation, the formation of the People of God, and the new evangelization," the Pope said.
For more than four centuries the rosary has been recited in a series of three mysteries"the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries-each of which has five themes dedicated to episodes in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Those 15 mysteries were standardized by Pope Pius V in 1569.
Pope John Paul II has had a deep devotion to Mary and to the Rosary throughout his life. In recent times, and particularly after last year"s September 11 terrorist attacks, he has urged Catholics to recite it daily to ask the intercession of the Blessed Mother for world peace and to protect humanity from the evils of violence and war.
The Rosary of the Virgin Mary will be available as a 44-page publication (no. 5-538) from USCCB Publishing, the official publisher of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, for $4.95 each. For a limited time, USCCB Publishing will offer the apostolic letter with two related booklets--A Rosary for Peace and A Scriptural Rosary for Justice and Peace--for the discounted price of $9.95. To order, call 1-800-235-8722.