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The Mary of others

Mary is not only ours – that is, she does not belong only to the Catholic and Orthodox faithful who venerate her – but she also belongs to non-Christian traditions, such as Judaism and Islam, and naturally the Protestants cannot be left out. With this issue of women church world we want to look at Mary from their point of view too and understand how others have imagined her and recounted her story. This is a new perspective which opens up for us interesting discoveries.

John Collier, “Annunciation”

For the Jews there is not only the well-known derogatory legend of the adultery that Mary is supposed to have committed with the Roman soldier Pantera [or Pandera]: Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni tells us of a twist in the narrative which is the reason why we “witness a paradox, in which the figure of Mary, even in a polemical context, preserves aspects of innocence, and her personal suffering is understood and shared”. In Islam Mary plays a role of primary importance. She is the only female figure whose name appears in the Qur’an. Although she is not considered to be Mother of the Son of God, her image is heavily laden with symbolic and spiritual value. However, it is also part of history, founded with the cult which the Shiites reserve for Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, herself the mother of two sons who died martyrs, the occasion, precisely, for the separation in the Islamic world between Sunni and Shia Muslims. For the Protestant Marion Muller-Colard Our Lady – for her a woman like others – is an object of love, the companion of a female destiny shared by very many people and so close to us that she inspires the wish to speak to her directly and to call her “tu” [the familiar form of “you” in Italian].

However, Mary is also one of the most frequently recurring and deeply moving images in the history ofWestern art, the protagonist of the essential passage for the Christian tradition which is the Word who takes flesh, who becomes a being like us. The ways in which this mystery has been portrayed have become a patrimony of the collective unconscious and in their turn serve to decipher Marian apparitions to young and inexpert witnesses. This is a new way of illuminating this figure who is so important to us, in order, once again, to dedicate the month of May to her. (lucetta scaraffia)

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