ROME – Pope Francis on Friday will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Catholic bishops from around the world have already announced they will answer his request for them to join him in the consecration.
March 25 is the feast of the Annunciation, and a solemnity on the church calendar.
The celebration will take place in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica at 5 p.m. local time.
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI will be joining in the consecration. Though some reports speculated he would be in the basilica, Crux has been able to confirm that the retired pontiff won’t be there. Instead, he will join from the Mater Ecclesia monastery where he has lived since leaving office.
On the same day Francis leads the penitential Lenten service, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, will lead a similar act of consecration at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
When Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917 with a message encouraging prayer and repentance, she also asked for the consecration of Russia by the pope and all the bishops of the world.
Francis sent a letter to all the bishops’ conferences asking them to join in the consecration, at the same time when possible.
Due to the time difference, some countries might opt for a different schedule. For instance, in some parts of Australia it will be 3 a.m.
“We urge people to spend part of their day on March 25 in prayer – attending Mass, praying with family or friends, in silent prayer at a local parish or chapel or in whatever way you can,” read a statement by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, head of the Australian bishops’ conference.
“Acting as the Universal Pastor of the Church, Pope Francis will renew the consecration urged at Fatima more than 100 years ago,” Coleridge said.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, told Crux that the time difference makes it “very difficult” for the faithful to take part in the consecration service, as it will be held at 9:30 p.m., but he hopes people will join online for the celebration he will lead in the cathedral of the country’s capital, or for that of the pope.
“All the bishops will join,” he said, and said they are expecting some guidance from the Holy See, that will “send some prayers and some things.”
Gracias also sent a letter to all the priests in his diocese, asking them to relay the notice of the consecration to the parishioners, and when possible, hold a half-hour Eucharistic adoration after the evening Mass on Friday.
“In this holy season of Lent, let us make a consolidated effort with prayers for peace in Ukraine as a concerted campaign: Praying, making acts of penance, and showing care to the needy,” Gracias wrote.
The bishops in Argentina have also announced that they will be joining in the consecration, with the main celebration taking place at 1 p.m. in the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan, Patroness of Argentina.
The president of the conference, Bishop Oscar Ojea, will preside over the celebration of the Mass in which a special prayer will be said “asking for the gift of peace for these nations and for the whole world,” according to the statement.
Ojea has invited all the bishops to go to Lujan, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, or to join “in this fervent prayer for peace among peoples from the Shrines and Dioceses of the country.”
Bishop Stephen Lowe of Auckland, the secretary of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said visiting a church next Friday would be a show of solidarity.
“All over Ukraine, people are having to flee their homes because of the war. Leaving our homes here in Aotearoa, New Zealand to go to our local church to pray on this special day would very much be showing solidarity to the people having to leave their homes in Ukraine,” he said.
By Monday night, at least 10 million people had been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, representing close to 25 percent of the country’s total population before the Russian invasion began.
Because ongoing COVID-19 restrictions limit the number of people who can attend a religious service in New Zealand, the bishops are inviting the faithful to visit their local parish throughout the day while each bishop will say the rosary in their respective cathedrals.
“What is important is leaving your homes on Friday to visit your local church, at a time that suits you,” Lowe said. “We will be asking all churches to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so as many people as possible can visit at different times during the day, in keeping with the COVID-19 restrictions.”
“We will be praying for those who have been wounded or killed,” he said in a statement. “We will be praying for those who care for the wounded. We will be praying for those who have suddenly become refugees and for those that care for them. And we will pray that the Russian leadership and soldiers may have a change of heart.”
In the United States, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington will lead a Mass in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and an invitation has been extended to the diplomatic corps and members of the federal government.