What is the significance of the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, made by Pope Francis at St Peter’s on 25 March 2022?
In the apparition of 13 July 1917 in Fatima, Our Lady announced to the three little shepherds, “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the communion of reparation on the first Saturdays.” In a subsequent private revelation to Sister Lucia, which took place on 13 June 1929 at the monastery of Tuy, Our Lady said that “the moment has come in which God is asking the Holy Father, in union with all the bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising in this way to save it”.
Neither Pius XI nor his successors granted this request; except in part. Pius XII consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1952, but without having the world’s bishops participate in his action. In 1984 John Paul II used the neologism “entrustment” instead of the term “consecration” and did not specifically mention Russia. The conditions requested by Our Lady are all present, however, in the act of Pope Francis, who pronounced the following words:
“Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The ‘Fiat’ that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world”.
The addition of Ukraine to Russia is perfectly legitimate, in part because Kiev is the cradle of Russian civilisation and Ukraine was part of Russia in 1917. The use of the term “solemnly” also confers particular importance on the act of the Holy Father, which was performed at St Peter’s during an austere penitential ceremony. In the centre of the basilica was not the pope, but the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, with the crown on her head and a rosary in her hands, in front of the brightly lit altar of the Confessio. Those who feared moments of desecration or departure from the customs and traditions of the Church were in for a surprise. Pope Francis carried out this act surrounded by cardinals, bishops, representatives of the diplomatic world, priests, men and women religious and ordinary faithful: a substantial portion, almost a microcosm of the Catholic world. At that same moment, all over the world, thousands of bishops and priests joined in the words of the consecration. The Swiss guards standing motionless around the pontifical throne seemed to re-echo a memory, far distant but never erased from history.
On the fact that the consecration corresponded to the requests made by Our Lady to the three little shepherds of Fatima, there is almost unanimous agreement. The few expressions of dissent from some traditionalists do not concern the act itself but the person of Francis, considered inadequate when it comes to the performance of an action of such supernatural importance. It must be said however that, for some of these traditionalists, Pope Francis has lost the pontificate. If Francis is not the legitimate pope, it is obvious that his act is illegitimate and invalid. If, on the contrary, despite all the reservations which may be had in his regard, he occupies the Chair of Peter legitimately, an act of his cannot but be valid, regardless of what he has done in the past and his intentions, which only God knows.
It may seem paradoxical that a pope as open to secularisation as Francis should be the author of an action which is in itself the negation of the secularist principle. Secularisation is in fact a process of the increasing exclusion of God from the public sphere. Consecration instead reaffirms God’s dominion over nations and over society as a whole. This is the reason why progressive theologians and “minimalist” mariologists have always opposed the use of the term “consecration”, on the public and individual level. During Vatican II, Fr Yves Congar (1904-1995) noted in his Diary: “I am waging the toughest campaign I can against a consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, because I see the danger that this could lead to the formation of a movement” (Diario del Concilio: 1969-1966, Edizioni San Paolo, 2005, vol. II, p. 120).
Along the same lines, Montfortian Fr Stefano De Fiores (1933-2012), in his posthumous essay “Consecration or entrustment”, wrote that “it is difficult to understand how some authors should propose a return to ‘consecration to Mary or to the immaculate heart of Mary’, because in Fatima Our Lady used such language”. In fact, “in 1917 it was perfectly normal to speak as Our Lady did. We do not allow ourselves any criticism of the language she employed at that precise historical moment. Only that today the Church has taken a biblical-theological route that demands a more rigorous use of language when speaking of Christ or of Mary” (“Vita Pastorale”, no. 5, May 2012, p. 30).
Ten years after the death of Fr De Fiores, Our Lady seems to have turned the tables on his presumption to give her lessons in theology, and to do so she chose none other than the pope who seems the least adequate for effecting a “return to consecration to Mary”. Pope Francis did not make the consecration to the Immaculate Heart when he went to Fatima on 12–13 May 2017. And, on 12 December 2019, during a Mass dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, he even denied Our Lady the title of “Co-redemptrix”. However, on 25 March he unexpectedly granted the request of the message of Fatima.
Is Pope Francis aware of the historical significance of his act? During the ceremony, and in the following days, he appeared to be in poor health and almost overwhelmed by events. The fact that the consecration fulfilled the conditions desired by Our Lady does not mean that the punishment looming over humanity will be averted. For this to happen, the consecration should be accompanied by the reparative practice of the first Saturdays of the month and above all by a profound spirit of penance. These conditions are lacking and the world continues to run towards the abyss, but the consecration of 25 March announces to us that the hour of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Fatima is drawing near, and this means great chastisement but, above all, the final triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In a letter to Fr Gonçalves dated 18 May 1929, Sister Lucia related a conversation she had with Our Lord in 1936 on the subject of the consecration of Russia:
“Intimately I have spoken to the Lord on the subject; and not too long ago I asked Him why He would not convert Russia without His Holiness making the consecration. ‘Because I want my whole Church to acknowledge this consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and thus extend Her devotion and place alongside the devotion to My Divine Heart the devotion to that Immaculate Heart’. But, O my God, the Holy Father will not believe me if You yourself do not move him with a special inspiration. ‘The Holy Father! Pray very much for the Holy Father. He will do it, but it will be late! Nevertheless the Immaculate Heart of Mary will save Russia. It has been entrusted to Her’.”
Fatima does not announce the end of the world or the advent of the antichrist, but the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is Christian civilisation, sacred because it is ordered to God and peaceful because it is subject to the Eternal Son of God made man, whose name is Princeps pacis, as Pius XII recalled in his radio message of 24 December 1951 and as Pope Francis called him on 25 March. The consecration of Russia will hasten the hour of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart, bringing new graces of conversion to the world. This is enough to fill the hearts of those devoted to Fatima with joy in this dark hour of our history.