By Catholic News Service staff
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during a penitential prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 25, the Vatican said.
On the same day, the Vatican said, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, will carry out a similar consecration at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
According to the Vatican’s translation of the messages of Fatima, when Mary appeared to the three shepherd children in Fatima in 1917, she told them, “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.”
Warning of “war, famine, and persecutions of the church and of the Holy Father,” Mary told the children, “to prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart.”
The Eastern- and Latin-rite Catholic bishops of Ukraine had been asking Pope Francis for the consecration.
“Ukrainian Catholics have been asking for this act since the beginning of Russian aggression in 2014 (in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine) as urgently needed to avoid the worsening of the war and the dangers coming from Russia,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, March 16.
“With the invasion of Russia on a massive scale,” in late February, he said, “prayers to do this came from all parts of the world from our faithful.”
The country’s Latin-rite bishops published their appeal to Pope Francis March 2, telling him that their priests, religious and laity all asked that he “consecrate our motherland and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
In a brief March 16 statement following a two-day plenary in Irkutsk, Russia’s Catholic bishops welcomed the pope’s decision with “joy and gratitude,” and called on Catholic parishes and communities across the country to schedule “appropriate prayers” and individuals to combine prayer with fasting and “deeds of love.”
“We call on all Catholics, remembering that ‘reality is always higher than ideas,’ in the words of Pope Francis, to strive for mutual understanding and be heralds of the word of reconciliation,” they said.
Some groups have continued to argue that Mary’s wish at Fatima was never fulfilled or that it was never done properly because the pope consecrated the world and not “Russia.” The Vatican, however, has insisted St. John Paul II did so in 1984 when he led the world’s bishops in the consecration of Russia and the world. The late Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last surviving visionary and the one who received the instructions for the consecration, had said that it was properly performed.
At his Sunday recitations of the Angelus since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, people have been showing up in St. Peter’s Square with signs asking the pope for the consecration of Russia or of Russia and Ukraine to Mary.
The Fatima message promised: “If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”
But, the message continued: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
Here is the CNS translation of the prayer for peace Pope Francis recited at his weekly general audience March 16. The prayer was composed by Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples.
Forgive us for the war, Lord.
Lord Jesus, son of God, have mercy on us sinners.
Lord Jesus, born under the bombs of Kyiv, have mercy on us.
Lord Jesus, dead in the arms of a mother in Kharkiv, have mercy on us.
Lord Jesus, in the 20-year-olds sent to the frontline, have mercy on us.
Lord Jesus, who continues to see hands armed with weapons under the shadow of the cross, forgive us, Lord.
Forgive us if, not content with the nails with which we pierced your hand, we continue to drink from the blood of the dead torn apart by weapons.
Forgive us if these hands that you had created to protect have been turned into instruments of death.
Forgive us, Lord, if we continue to kill our brother. Forgive us, Lord, if we continue to kill our brother, if we continue like Cain to take the stones from our field to kill Abel.
Forgive us if we go out of our way to justify cruelty, if, in our pain, we legitimize the cruelty of our actions. Forgive us the war, Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, we implore you to stop the hand of Cain, enlighten our conscience, let not our will be done, do not abandon us to our own doing. Stop us, Lord, stop us, and when you have stopped the hand of Cain, take care of him also. He is our brother.
O Lord, stop the violence. Stop us, Lord. Amen.
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