Calling it the â€œmost exciting archival discovery in the post-Reformation eraâ€, Vatican archivists have announced that in October 2011, they discovered what they believe to be the unfinished 13th Rosary Encyclical penned by Pope Leo XIII.Â Pope Leo XIII, who had a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother,Â issued 12 encyclicals on the rosary between the years 1883-1898.Â It is believed this newly found incomplete one was started several months before he died in July 1903.
â€œWeâ€™ve translated the text,â€ Fr. Hugo Thistleway said at yesterdayâ€™s press conference, â€œand itâ€™s entitled Decursu Saeculorum, taken from the first sentence of the encyclical: â€˜Decursu saeculorum, sanctissimam Matrem pietatis manifestatio per fideles in recitatione a sanctissimo Rosario nuncupaturâ€™, which translates to: â€˜Throughout the ages, devotion to our Blessed Mother has been expressed by the faithful in the recitation of the Holy Rosaryâ€™.â€
In all, the encyclical totals six and a half pages, and is clearly incomplete.Â But its content has caused an immediateÂ controversy at the Holy See, as Pope Leo XIII indicated in very precise language how the rosary is to be prayed.Â Namely, that the only means by which to receive grace and indulgences from recitation, is to pray the rosary in a counter-clockwise direction.Â According to the encyclical, praying the rosary in a clockwise direction would â€˜bear no fruit and Heaven would be closed to the petitioner and his pleasâ€™ (â€˜â€¦fructum nequaquam facient, quod caelum claudatur, et preces eius et actori.â€™).
â€œDue to its incompleteness, there is uncertainty as to the encyclicalâ€™s binding nature upon the faithful,â€ Thistleway said.Â â€œBut make no mistake, this is huge.â€
Fr. Thistleway demonstrated Pope Leo XIIIâ€™s instructions to those gathered at the press conference.Â â€œIf you hold out the rosary at the crucifix, and let the beads hang down, what the encyclical is saying is that the first decade must be the one to the left of the crucifix, the second decade to the left of the first, and so on, all away around until you return to the crucifix.Â Starting to the right would be wrong â€“ not necessarily sinful, at least according to several moral theologians Iâ€™ve spoken to, but wrong nonetheless.â€
He went on to state that the encyclical did not declare whether the decade had to be prayed left to right, or right to left.Â â€œPerhaps the late Pope Leo XIII meant to detail that on page eight, but he only made it as far as page seven.â€
So what happens next?Â According to another archivist, Fr. Igor Dattavay, itâ€™s up to Pope Benedict XVI.Â â€œHeâ€™s seen the partial encyclical, and is in consultation with members of the Curia as how to proceed.Â This is rather unprecedented.â€ [More]