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Mary Magdalene’s memorial elevated to a feast

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"They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him," Mary Magdalene told the man, before realizing she was speaking to the resurrected Christ. After embracing Him, she ran to tell the disciples the good news.

Honoring her role as the apostle to the apostles, Mary Magdalene's memorial, July 22, has been elevated to a feast by Pope Francis.

Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, explained the change, saying, "It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same rank of Feast that given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar."

The church has three levels of liturgical celebration: memorial, feast and solemnity. All saints are given a memorial day. Feasts are reserved for saints of great importance, like St. Joseph, or for special moments in the life of Christ, like the Transfiguration. Solemnities such as Easter are of the highest level.

The elevation seeks to recognize the great role women have played in the life of the church. "This decision, in the current ecclesial context, seeks to reflect more deeply upon the dignity of women, on the new evangelization and on the greatness of the mystery of God's Mercy," said Archbishop Roche.

Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Christ, present at His crucifixion, entombment and resurrection. She was freed by Jesus from seven demons, according to the Gospel of Luke. St. Gregory the Great also believed that she was the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the woman who cleaned Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

Read more about the life of St. Mary Magdalene

"St. Mary Magdalene is a wonderful example of how following Jesus changes your heart," said Liz Shiavone, president of the diocesan Council of Catholic Women.

In the early 2000s, Father Juan Solana, head of a Jerusalem pilgrim home, decided to build a retreat center in Galilea. When construction began, workers discovered a first-century synagogue and the remains of the town of Magdala. Archaeologists have learned the town was a center for fish-salting and boat building, and they are still working to excavate more. The town plans to celebrate Mass with hundreds of people on the feast of its most famous disciple.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016