Bishops in Ukraine hopefully prepare for a visit from Pope Francis

FOUR WEEKS AFTER THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR, many believers in Ukraine are pinning their hopes on Pope Francis’ March 25 consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk of Odessa said: “Along with the whole world, we are praying with great hope, and we are asking for prayer. We believe in the help of Mary, the Mother of God.”

Bishop Szyrokoradiuk reported that although Odessa had been spared the worst of the fighting during the first four weeks of the war, he was anxious that the city was currently under fire and that there were frequent air raid warnings. “We are constantly afraid of an attack from the sea,” he said.

Bishop Szyrokoradiuk

Odessa lies on the Black Sea not far from Crimea, where many Russian warships are stationed. The bishop lamented that thoughts about his parishes and the people in the region cause him constant “fear and pain”. “My God, so many people are dying every day.”

Despite the surge in fighting, Catholic communities in Odessa and other parts of the country have prepared for the consecration with novenas and devotions, as in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. In a video message from there, Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk reported: “I would like to share with you my joy over the initiative of Pope Francis to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Bishop Huncharuk

Since the beginning of the war, Kharkiv has been among the most fiercely contested areas of the country. Bishop Honcharuk recently documented for ACN the destruction of private apartments. A missile also hit the roof of the bishop’s house, as shown in the photo on this page.

Bishop Honcharuk went on to say that in the middle of the suffering and destruction, the consecration was “a sign of God’s victory, of love, of goodness and of life”. “Like other dioceses in Ukraine, our diocese has begun to prepare novenas to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and we are now getting ready for such a beautiful event.” In his message to ACN Bishop Honcharuk asked people to pray the Rosary for Mary’s intercession. “May God bless you all!”

Pope Francis will carry out the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at 5pm Rome time, March 25, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He has also called upon bishops around the world to join him in this act. In carrying out the consecration Pope Francis is responding to requests from the bishops’ conference of Ukraine and from many believers around the world. The consecration has its roots in the Marian apparitions in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.

Popes have on many occasions consecrated the whole of humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, notably in 1984 when Pope John Paul II was joined by the world’s bishops. For this consecration, the Vatican has published its own consecration prayer (see below).

—Tobias Lehner

Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Basilica of St. Peter
March 25, 2022

O Mary, Mother of God and our mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our mother, you love us and know us: No concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the prince of peace.

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns.

We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbor’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war, and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help!

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.

Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.

Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.

Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.

Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.

Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.

Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.

Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.

Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.

O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your sorrowful heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.

Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26). In this way, he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (Jn 19:27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history.

At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.

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.

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “fiat,” on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope,” water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.