PopeWatch: Untier of Knots

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Sandro Magister on his blog Chiesa notes that Pope Francis has a special devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots:




In Augsburg, in the church of the Jesuits, dedicated to Saint Peter, there is a venerated Marian image: the Blessed Mother “untier of knots.”

In it Mary is depicted untying the knots of a ribbon held out to her by an angel, which another angel is receiving from her with no more knots. The meaning is clear. The knots are all that complicates life, difficulties, sins. And Mary is the one who helps to untie them.

Bergoglio was deeply struck by this Marian image. When he returned to Argentina a few months later, he brought with him a good number of prayer cards with the Blessed Mother “untier of knots.”

His doctoral thesis was abandoned at its birth, and even the thought of Romano Guardini did not leave a lasting imprint upon Bergoglio. In the interview with Pope Francis in “La Civiltà Cattolica,” in which he dedicates ample space to his authors of reference, Guardini is not there.

But in exchange, thanks to his stay in Germany in 1986, Bergoglio unknowingly brought a new Marian devotion to birth in Argentina.

An artist to whom he had given one of the prayer cards acquired in Augsburg reproduced the image and offered it to a parish of the working-class Barrio de Agronomía, in the center of Buenos Aires.

On display in the church, the image of Mary “desatanudos” attracted a growing number of devotees, converted sinners, and marked an unexpected growth of religious practice. To such an extent that after a few years there was a well-established tradition of a pilgrimage to the image, from all over Buenos Aires and from even farther away, on the 8th day of every month.

“I never felt myself so much an instrument in the hands of God,” Bergoglio confided to a Jesuit confrere who was his disciple, Fr. Fernando Albistur, now a professor of biblical studies at the Colegio Máximo di San Miguel in Buenos Aires.

Fr. Albistur recounts this in a newly released book edited by Alejandro Bermúdez, with interviews with ten Jesuits and ten Argentine laymen who are longtime friends of Bergoglio.

And he is not the only one. In the same book, Fr. Juan Carlo Scannone, the most authoritative of the Argentine theologians and a former professor of the young Jesuit Bergoglio, also relates the same episode.

In Scannone’s judgment, the instance of the Blessed Mother “untier of knots” helps us to understand more deeply the “pastoral” profile of Pope Francis and his accentuated attention to the “people.”
Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch had never heard of this devotion and it is indeed a powerful image, as all of us encounter many knots, some within ourselves, to untie as we traverse this vale of tears.  Magister goes on to note that the Pope has always viewed himself as pastoral leaving the questions of doctrine to others.  Perhaps his devotion to Mary, the Untier of Knots, indicates his belief that God will resolve such questions.  At any rate knowledge of this devotion gives insight into the man that Pope Francis is, even if, as with so many things about this Pope, the insight raises as many questions as it answers.

More to explorer

Bob Hope and the Mayflower Compact

Under the Julian Calendar in effect at the time, the Mayflower Compact was signed on November 11, 1620.  Under the Gregorian Calendar


  1. Several weeks ago I went to a Catholic bookstore. A display of Mary, Untier/Undoer of Knots holy cards and coins were on prominent display. I bought some for myself and friends because we all have “knots” in our lives and I thought the history of the devotion with associated miracles is interesting. Not the history of the present Pope’s devotion, but the original reason the painting was commissioned and the symbolism the artist used. Hint: the ribbon was used in the matrimony service. Although there is a website with the title of the painting with an English translation, I suggest looking at several for a complete history.

  2. “Pope Watch” why the picture of the Pope looking at his watch, reminds me of my daughter Katie, we always have to explain these plays on words to her. Even though she if 44! Bawha!

  3. Thank you for this. We had heard about it at the Queen of Peace shrine at Trinity Heights in Sioux City and prayed the Mary Undoer of Knots Rosary Novena for our son. When we first attended an Encourage meeting, one of the members gave us a holy card of her, and another member gave me Mary Undoer of Knots pendant to wear on a necklace. A great comfort.

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