Why 105 years after the Fatima apparitions, and 93 years after Sister Lucy confirmed Our Lady’s message in 1929, does the Holy Father explicitly consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with the bishops of the world ?
The war is the cause, and not just the fighting in Ukraine.
kyiv is still standing but Kirill from Moscow has already fallen.
The Holy See published on Wednesday the text of the act of consecration, which will be made by Pope Francis in Rome on the day of the Annunciation and by his envoy, Cardinal Konrad Krajewksi, in Fatima at the same time. It will be truly universal – translations have been published in Tigrinya, the main language of Eritrea, and Malayalam, the language of the ancient St. Thomas Christians of Kerala.
The relevant part reads: “To your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, together with the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.”
Since 1929, the Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly made consecrations to the Immaculate Heart, and the 1984 consecration by Saint John Paul II was judged by Sister Lucia to have responded to the request made by Our Lady of Fatima.
However, this time is different. Russia is explicitly mentioned and all the bishops were asked, as well as the parish priests, to join in the act of the Holy Father.
The request addressed to Sister Lucy, the only surviving visionary of Fatima in 1929, specified the explicit consecration of Russia, so that “Russia may be converted” and peace be achieved.
Yet even in 1984, Saint John Paul II did not, in advance or in his official text, mention Russia. It was said that he did this during the actual consecration.
The Vatican was reluctant to be so explicit for two reasons.
One was to avoid stirring up superstitious feelings that seemed to regard consecration as akin to a shamanic incantation, or as a pious but perverse practice, such as burying a statue of Saint Joseph upside down to sell property. .
The other reason was Russian Orthodox sensibilities.
Russia is the de facto home of world orthodoxy. The Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox as valid sister Churches with an authentic episcopate and sacraments, not to mention an immense spiritual, theological and liturgical patrimony dating back to the first Christian centuries.
If the Eastern “lung” of the Church is the Greek Orthodox tradition, its modern language is often Russian.
Therefore, an act by the pope, one of whose titles is Patriarch of the West (thinking that Benedict XVI refused to use it), to consecrate Russia so “that she might be converted”, could easily be poorly received. Convert from what? To Catholicism?
While the “conversion of Russia” was widely seen in the West as referring to communism – the peaceful dismantling of which followed shortly after the 1984 consecration – it would not be unreasonable for Russian orthodoxy to have concerns.
After all, what if an Orthodox patriarch were to, in response to a Marian apparition, consecrate Italy to the heart of Mary, so that she would be converted? What could the Catholics and the bishop of Rome think?
Given Russian Orthodox sensibilities, Rome proceeded with subtlety and discretion.
And now? The consecration of Friday is not only momentous in itself as a spiritual act, not only momentous in its most immediate goal, which is peace, but momentous in what follows, namely the fall of Kirill.
The Patriarch of Moscow, a man of great culture, deeply compromised by both Soviet and Russian power, ceased in a few weeks to be a religious authority worthy of respect. It is now widely seen to be personally corrupted by power, more a Putin propagandist than a pastor whose flock – by his own understanding – includes Ukrainians.
In less than a month, Pope Francis received the explicit request for consecration, acceded to it, announced it and invited the whole Church to participate. Such an ecclesial earthquake has historic proportions.
The religious landscape of the 21st century has changed considerably. The Moscow Patriarchate – which dubs itself the “Third Rome” – no longer enjoys the respect, esteem and influence that once did. Pending its purge of Putinism, and more generally state co-optation, Russian Orthodoxy is no longer a credible ecumenical partner.
This will have ramifications in Russia, where Russian Orthodoxy may finally be in the crisis that forces it to free itself from the shackles imposed by Stalin in 1941. It will have ramifications in world Orthodoxy, where the outsized influence of Russia (half of Orthodox believers are Russian) will now drastically decrease. And it has already had ramifications in Rome, where Kirill’s concerns are simply not deemed worthy of consideration at this time.
Patriarch Cyril himself knows this. For generations, the Rome-Moscow dance has followed a well-worn pattern. Rome would take an initiative; Moscow would react with indignation.
In 1988, Jean-Paul wished to commemorate the millennium of the baptism of Kievan Rus’; Patriarch Pimen of Moscow made it clear that he was not welcome. (John Paul showed his esteem for his Slavic brethren in the east by sending a delegation to Moscow which included the Cardinal Secretary of State, as well as the Cardinal Archbishops of Vienna, Warsaw, Munich, Milan, New York, Riga and Hanoi.)
In 1991 Jean-Paul would announce “apostolic administrations” for the pastoral care of Catholics in Russia, and Patriarch Aleksy reacted with cold fury.
Jean-Paul would offer to return to Russia their holiest icon, the Madonna of Kazan, taken out of Russia for safekeeping and which surfaced in France before going to the Vatican. Russia shrugged and told the Holy Father he could send him if he wanted, but he was not welcome. In 2004, he sent it anyway.
This time? Not a glance from Kirill denouncing Rome’s “spiritual imperialism” and other conspiratorial outrages. Spiritual imperialism is hard to decry when you bless old-fashioned martial-type imperialism.
The Kirill scandal will prove an obstacle to the gospel and has inflicted a serious wound on world Christianity, as all counter-witnesses do. Yet, since biblical times, God has often used the scandal of sin and its consequences to purify His people.
Prayers for Russia today therefore include the purification of the Moscow Patriarchate, so that Russia may once again offer the spiritual gifts without which the universal Church is not fully complete.