José Maria C.S. André
Pope Francis announced that on Friday, March 25, he will consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not the first time that countries or cities have been consecrated to Jesus, Our Lady or some intercessor saint. This consecration, however, is vitally significant.
The immediate reason is the insistent request of the Ukrainian bishops to the Pope, recalling Our Lady’s message at Fatima. Pope Francis’ decision confirms this reference and, to make it more explicit, he simultaneously announced the act of consecration and that he was sending Cardinal Krajewski as pontifical legate to perform the consecration at the shrine of Fatima, on the same day, at the same hour.
Through the apostolic nuncios, the Holy See asked the bishops and all the authorities of the Church to join in the consecration. Not only in Fatima will the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary take place, but throughout the world millions and millions of hearts will unite in pleading for this intention with God.
The Portuguese Bishops’ Conference called on “all parishes, communities, institutes of consecrated life and other ecclesial institutions to join this intention of consecration in the celebrations of that day, namely in the Stations of the Cross, in the Eucharist, in the Prayer of the Rosary” and in other celebrations.
The first aim of the consecration of Russia is the salvation of the Russian people. One does not dedicate a people to Our Lady to harm them, but that they may attain prosperity on earth and in Heaven. In the times of the communist dictatorship, the Russian people suffered the tortures of the gulags, the deprivation of freedom, poverty and crime. And now, in this unjust war, besides the tens of thousands of heroic Ukrainians who died, there are also thousands of dead among the aggressors. We pray for all, remembering that the death of the wicked is a far greater tragedy than that of the innocent.
Our Lady requested at Fatima that the Holy Father specifically consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart in unison with all the bishops of the whole world. In an attempt to comply with this wish, Pius XII, in 1942, in the middle of World War II, consecrated the world, the Church and humanity; and 10 years later, he specially consecrated the Russian people through an Apostolic Letter. At the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1964, Paul VI renewed the consecration of Russia, together with the bishops who had participated in the Council. John Paul II renewed these consecrations at Fatima on May 13, 1982 and repeated them in 1983. In 1984, he made a third consecration, this time asking the bishops from around the world to join him, to fulfil more strictly Our Lady’s request. Shortly after being elected, Francis again consecrated the world to Our Lady on the significant day of October 13, 2013 – the anniversary of Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima.
These consecrations did not always refer explicitly to Russia, to avoid the misconstruing of this prayer. For example, John Paul II often used expressions such as “the whole world and especially the peoples who, because of their situation, are the special object of your love and solicitude.” The March 25th consecration stands apart in its uniqueness with only the countries of Ukraine and Russia being named in it.
The statement of the Portuguese bishops ends with an invitation, which we can adhere to every day, beginning now:
“Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of Peace, let us continue to pray for the Ukrainian people, persecuted in their land and dispersed throughout the world. That the Lord may heed our prayers and the efforts of people of good will, and grant them peace and a safe return to their homes.”
This Friday, March 25th, at 5:00 pm in Rome, 4:00 pm in Lisbon, 3:00 pm in the Azores, wherever we are, we will participate passionately in this historic event.