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VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - On Friday, Pope Francis, calling St. Mary Magdalene a "true and authentic evangelizer," raised the July 22 liturgical memorial of the saint to the rank of a feast, equal to that of the Apostles' feast days. The decree was signed by Cdl. Robert Sarah, prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
This was accompanied by a new Latin Preface for the Mass and an article written by His Excellency, Bp. Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It's titled "Apostolorum Apostola" ("Apostle of Apostles").
The letter explains the Holy Father's decision:
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, took this decision precisely within the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to signify the importance of this woman who showed great love for Christ and was greatly loved by Christ. ... Precisely because she was an eyewitness of the Risen Christ, she was also, on the other hand, the first to bear witness to him to the Apostles. She fulfills the mandate of the Risen One: "Go to my brethren and say to them" ... . Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples: "I have seen the Lord!"; and she told them that he had said these things to her" (Jn 20:17–18). Thus she becomes, as already noted, an evangelist, or rather, a messenger announcing the good news of the Lord's Resurrection; or as Rabanus Maurus and St. Thomas Aquinas said, an "apostolorum apostola."
Archbishop Roche said this feast day celebrates "an evangelist who proclaims the central joyous message of Easter," and that St. Mary Magdalene's feast day calls for Catholics around the world to "reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy."
"Therefore it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same grade of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the General Roman Calendar," he said, "and shines a light on the special mission of this woman, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church."
While preaching about St. Mary Magdalene and the mercy Christ gave towards the woman who was "exploited and despised by those who believed they were righteous," yet loved and forgiven by Jesus.
In reference to Mary Magdalene weeping at the empty tomb of Jesus, Pope Francis said in 2013 at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, that "sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus."
In the Catholic faith, tradition says Mary Magdalene was the "woman of the city" who entered the house of Simon the Pharisee and washed the feet of Jesus Christ with her tears. Jesus said to Simon: "I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Saint Mary Magdalene's skull is currently located in the Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume basilica in France, and Mary's sarcophogus and remains are in the crypt under the basilica.