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Bishops await Vatican instruction for consecration of Russia and Ukraine

Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary March 25, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

Pope Francis walks past a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Fatima, Portugal. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino.

Bishops around the world are invited to join in, but some have told The Pillar they’re not sure what participation should actually entail. A papal representative assured U.S. bishops Thursday that instructions will be forthcoming, and liturgical provision made before the date of the consecration.

The consecration comes as Russia continues to attack Ukraine. It will take place on the 38th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s consecration of the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart.

Visionaries who saw an apparition of Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, say that the consecration of Russia was requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary, who asked “the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart.”

The Pillar reached out this week to dioceses across the country to ask whether their local bishops would be participating in the consecration.

About 60 dioceses and archdioceses have indicated to The Pillar that they plan to participate. But several said it is not yet clear to them what exactly it means to participate in the pope’s consecration.

“I certainly agree that ardent prayers are needed. I have not seen the format to be used by the Holy Father and without that format I do not know how or when (other than March 25) to join him,” Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa told The Pillar.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Owensboro said it was not clear what participation in the consecration meant. She added, “We definitely support what Pope Francis is doing and have been calling for people to hold Russia and Ukraine in prayer.”

Several bishops released statements of “solidarity” or “support” for the pope’s consecration, but stopped short of saying they were planning to consecrate Russia in union with the pope.

“I join in solidarity with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he consecrates Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during a penitential prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica on March 25,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville told The Pillar.

“I will be saying Mass at one of our Catholic schools the morning of March 25 and will acknowledge this action of our Holy Father as I remember the people of Ukraine and our deep desire for peace for all.”

“I will join the Holy Father in prayer that day and I am encouraging the priests and the faithful of the archdiocese to also pray in support for his intentions,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Wilmington said the diocese “is planning to participate [but] We are not sure in what form. We are waiting for some direction from the USCCB.”

The USCCB itself did not respond to The Pillar’s request for comment.

But the pope’s representative to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, clarified in a letter Thursday that specifics for bishops to participate in the consecration will soon be made available.

In a March 17 letter to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Pierre said Pope Francis is inviting all the bishops of the country to participate in the consecration.

Pierre’s letter asked that the bishops join in the consecration at 5 p.m. Rome time, if possible — noon on the East Coast of the United States, 9 a.m. in California.

The nuncio added that an official consecration prayer would be released in the coming days.

Ahead of the consecration, some Catholics have expressed concern that a formula be devised which recognizes the unity of the consecration action by bishops with that of the pope, because, they say, that is essential for a faithful response to Mary’s urging at the apparition of Fatima that both the pope and the world college of bishops participate in the consecration.

Some Catholics with a devotion to the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima have long raised objections to prior papal responses to the request for a consecration of Russia, and criticized the 1984 act of consecration performed by Pope St. John Paul II, claiming it did not adhere closely enough to their understanding of Mary’s request.

The Vatican has not indicated that Pope Francis’ plans for March 25 come in response to those criticisms. Instead, the Latin Catholic bishops of Ukraine asked Pope Francis in early March to “publicly perform the act of consecration to the Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary of Ukraine and Russia, as requested by the Blessed Virgin in Fatima.”

There is in the Catholic Church a long-standing devotional custom of consecrating, or entrusting, both individuals and nations to Jesus through the intercessory prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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