(Cross-posted at The American Catholic)
(AoftheAP) Calling it the “most exciting archival discovery in the post-Reformation era”, 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. Pope Leo XIII, who had a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother, issued 12 encyclicals on the rosary between the years 1883-1898. It is believed this newly found incomplete one was started several months before he died in July 1903.
“We’ve translated the text,” Fr. Hugo Thistleway said at yesterday’s press conference, “and it’s entitled Decursu Saeculorum, taken from the first sentence of the encyclical: ‘Decursu saeculorum, sanctissimam Matrem pietatis manifestatio per fideles in recitatione a sanctissimo Rosario nuncupatur’, which translates to: ‘Throughout the ages, devotion to our Blessed Mother has been expressed by the faithful in the recitation of the Holy Rosary’.”
In all, the encyclical totals six and a half pages, and is clearly incomplete. But its content has caused an immediate controversy at the Holy See, as Pope Leo XIII indicated in very precise language how the rosary is to be prayed. Namely, that the only means by which to receive grace and indulgences from recitation, is to pray the rosary in a counter-clockwise direction. According to the encyclical, praying the rosary in a clockwise direction would ‘bear no fruit and Heaven would be closed to the petitioner and his pleas’ (‘…fructum nequaquam facient, quod caelum claudatur, et preces eius et actori.’).
“Due to its incompleteness, there is uncertainty as to the encyclical’s binding nature upon the faithful,” Thistleway said. “But make no mistake, this is huge.”
Fr. Thistleway demonstrated Pope Leo XIII’s instructions to those gathered at the press conference. “If 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. Starting to the right would be wrong – not necessarily sinful, at least according to several moral theologians I’ve spoken to, but wrong nonetheless.”
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. “Perhaps the late Pope Leo XIII meant to detail that on page eight, but he only made it as far as page seven.”
So what happens next? According to another archivist, Fr. Igor Dattavay, it’s up to Pope Benedict XVI. “He’s seen the partial encyclical, and is in consultation with members of the Curia as how to proceed. This is rather unprecedented.”
And could there be greater implications beyond the 20 Mysteries of the Holy Rosary? “Well, the rosary is also used to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, among other devotions,” Dattavay explained. “Would the same instructions apply? Perhaps saying the Divine Mercy in a clockwise manner might actually bring Divine Wrath – of course, that’s merely my opinion. It’s up to the Holy Father to determine that.”
In the meantime, Dattavay said, the faithful are encouraged to continue praying the rosary as they always have, and not be concerned until the Holy See makes their final recommendation.
AoftheA obtained video of the Vatican Archives press conference, which can be viewed here.