WASHINGTON (CNA) -- Ukrainian Catholic leaders have been urging Pope Francis to take the dramatic step to consecrate both Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and will lead a nine-day novena to prepare for the March 25 event, a top prelate in the war-ravaged country told CNA Tuesday.
“We are very happy by the fact that the Holy Father responded positively to the request of the Bishops of the Latin Catholic Church, all its priests, and all its people,” said Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, Ukraine.
“For this ceremony we want to prepare our people with a novena that will start on March 17,” he added. “We are calling all Christians in Ukraine to join this novena, and we would be very grateful if the whole Church around the world would join us in prayer for this intention.”
Archbishop Mokrzycki in the interview also appeared to try to carefully navigate around the decades-long controversy over the validity of St. Pope John Paul II's 1987 consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, saying he believed it was done properly but that it would be beneficial to repeat in order to secure peace again, after the latest outbreak of war.
The Holy See press office announced March 15 that the pope plans to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25 at 5 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. EWTN will broadcast the ceremony live beginning at 12 noon ET.
Archbishop Mokrzycki’s conversation with CNA — and another interview he gave earlier in the day to a Ukrainian journalist working for St. Rita Radio, an EWTN radio affiliate in Norway — shed light on what led to Pope Francis’ surprising decision, which is closely linked to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. For more about the consecration’s meaning and origins, read CNA’s explainer here.
“During this painful and difficult situation of war, we continued to pray, to celebrate the Holy Mass, to adore the Holy Sacrament, to fast and to offer our sufferings requesting God’s mercy. We were joined by the whole world in this, but we see that the war continues,” Archbishop Mokrzyck told CNA in a telephone interview, speaking in Italian.
“So we recalled Our Lady of Fatima, who in 1917 said that the end of the war would come if the Holy Father and the bishops consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, offer the first Saturdays of every month and pray the Holy Rosary. So we requested the Holy Father to fulfill that request once again,” he explained.
“This was our desire, this was the voice of all the Ukrainian people,” Archbishop Mokrzyck said in his interview with St. Rita Radio. “We as Latin rite bishops, in our bishops’ conference, we went to the Holy Father, we addressed him a letter with this cry because we still have the hope that this war may end soon.
“Thanks to the visit of Cardinal (Konrad) Krajewski, the Pope’s almoner, we were able to repeat to him, when he was visiting us, this appeal. We insisted to him to bring back (to the Holy Father) this request,” the archbishop continued. “So we rejoiced when we heard back this good news after he returned to Italy.”
Cardinal Krajewski was one of two papal envoys sent to Ukraine last week in an expression of the pope’s concern for the country's besieged population. On March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, at the same time that Pope Francis will lead the consecration ceremony in Rome, Cardinal Krajewski will do the same act in Fatima, the Holy See said.
“We believe that this act will be listened to by Our Lady and she will intercede before God for peace in Ukraine,” Archbishop Mokrzycki told CNA.
“Someone was telling me that Pope John Paul II had already entrusted Russia and the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and this is true,” he continued.
“But Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 said that the consecration would be followed by a time of peace. That time of peace is over now, so we need to repeat the act of consecration of Russia and Ukraine,” he maintained.
“All the Catholic bishops in Ukraine, both from the Latin rite and Greek Catholics, will join the Holy Father in this act of consecration, celebrating it at the same time in our cathedrals and churches. And we are hopeful that we will be joined by many of our brother bishops around the world,” the archbishop said.