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ROME – Pope Francis will consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
According to a statement released by the Vatican on Tuesday, the consecration will take place on Friday, March 25, and will include both Russia and Ukraine. It will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica during the Celebration of Penance at which Francis will preside.
The same act on the same day will be carried out in Fatima by Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, says the statement released by the Holy See. The prelate was in Ukraine last week as a special papal envoy.
The date chosen is highly significant. On March 25, 1984, Pope John Paul II also consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in St. Peter’s Square.
Though some, mostly traditionalist Catholics, claim John Paul II’s consecration wasn’t valid because the word “Russia” wasn’t said and it wasn’t carried out in tandem “by all the bishops of the world,” one of the three visionaries of Fatima who allegedly received the request from the Virgin Mary wrote that “it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984.”
After the ceremony, when he was asked about the consecration of the world to the Virgin, John Paul II said, “and Russia.”
The Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by a reigning pope was allegedly requested by Our Lady of Fátima in July 1917. Though it is not mandatory for Catholics to accept it as truth – Marian apparitions are not a part of the Deposit of Faith – the Vatican has widely acknowledged that Christ’s mother appeared to three young shepherds in a small city in Portugal.
Sister Lúcia dos Santos, one of the three visionaries, publicly stated many times that the consecration of Russia as a nation would lead in a period of world peace.
Though the validity of John Paul’s act has been questioned by, for instance, members of the traditionalist Society of Pius X, the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith released a statement in 2000 defending the consecration. Called “The Message of Fatima,” it includes the passage from a letter signed by dos Santos in Nov. 1989, affirming John Paul’s consecration fulfilled Our Lady’s request.
Previously, Pope Pius XII (1942), Pope Benedict XVI (2010) and Pope Francis (2013) have consecrated “the world” to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Though Pius XII verbally consecrated “the peoples of Russia” on 7 July 1952 via his papal bull “Sacro Vergente,” he didn’t actually consecrate Russia as a nation.
On Ash Wednesday, March 2, Ukraine’s Latin Rite Catholic bishops had asked Pope Francis to consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In a letter addressed to the pope and published on their website, the Ukrainian bishops said that they were writing “in these hours of immeasurable pain and terrible ordeal for our people” in response to many requests for the consecration.
“Responding to this prayer, we humbly ask Your Holiness to publicly perform the act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Ukraine and Russia, as requested by the Blessed Virgin in Fatima,” they wrote.
Krajewski said it will be a “very meaningful moment.”
“It will happen during the Celebration of Penance and the forgiveness of sins is linked to peace,” he told Crux.
The cardinal said Pope Francis was getting multiple requests to do so from all over the world, especially Ukraine.
“There was even a banner at the Angelus asking the pope to entrust Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and the Holy Father saw it,” Krajewski said.
“When I was in Ukraine everyone was asking for two things – closing the sky over Ukraine and entrusting Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” he said.
Paulina Gudzik contributed to this report.