In the Vatican there are ceremonies so exceptional that they come only every so often. Pope Francis, who has never hidden his concern over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has offered on numerous occasions the mediation of the Holy See to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict, held one of those extraordinary liturgies this Friday with a call all the faithful and bishops of the world in ranks to call for the end of the war, one month after the Russian offensive. Bergoglio has gathered the ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to the Holy See at a mass in the Basilica of San Pedro and has entrusted both countries to the Virgin in a public ceremony in which he has asked that the grudges end: “We need the spirit of love, which dissolves hatred, quenches resentment, extinguishes greed and awakens us from indifference”, he launched.
This solemn gesture of spiritual diplomacy that the Church has carried out on few occasions is known in religious language as “consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” and obeys a highly valued prophecy in the Holy See related to those known as the mysteries. of Fatima. “We have lost the path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson of the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of millions of fallen in world wars. We have disregarded the commitments assumed as a community of nations and we are betraying the dreams of peace of the peoples and the hopes of the youth. We have become sick with greed, we have locked ourselves into nationalist interests, we have allowed ourselves to be hardened by indifference and paralyzed by selfishness”, the Argentine pontiff has claimed.
The importance of this unique event for Catholicism, on the day the Church celebrates the Annunciation, one of the most important festivals for Christians, transcends the religious sphere and can also be read politically and diplomatically. Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, and his Russian counterpart, Alexander Avdeev, attended the ceremony, although they took separate places in the basilica.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, the Pope has condemned the “unjustified aggression” and has denounced the “atrocities” committed by Moscow. Although he has raised himself in an unusual tone of denunciation, he has done so implicitly and has not directly mentioned Russia, in an attempt to maintain the fragile bridges with the Orthodox Church, which has justified the armed aggression. The Pontiff has pronounced for the first time the words “Russia” and “Russian people” this Friday, within the prayer.
In a universal gesture, Francis has addressed all the faithful directly and has asked the more than 5,000 bishops of the world to unite to demand an end to the war in Ukraine. The consecration has been replicated in a coordinated manner in thousands of churches around the world and the Vatican has translated the official prayer of the event into more than thirty languages.
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The consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is related to the so-called mysteries of Fatima, the supposed revelations that the Virgin delivered to three young shepherds in the Portuguese town of Fatima in 1917. According to this belief, the Virgin demanded the consecration of Russia, where that The revolution that would lead to its Soviet stage began that year, or else the country would “spread its errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecuting the Church.” Other pontiffs have carried out similar acts of consecration in the past, in 1942, 1952 or the last one in 1984.
Bergoglio has activated several diplomatic channels, although the efforts have been in vain. He himself visited in person on February 25 the Russian ambassador to the Holy See to ask for a ceasefire. It has also sent two of its flagship cardinals, Konrad Krajewski, a beggar, and Michael Czerny, who deals with migrant and refugee issues, to Ukraine, Poland and Hungary to deliver humanitarian aid, manage safe corridors for refugees and call for the peace. A few days ago, Francis phoned Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky for the second time since the beginning of the invasion, assuring him that he is doing everything possible to stop the war. “The mediation of the Holy See to end this human suffering would be highly appreciated,” said the Ukrainian president.
Zelensky repeated the invitation to the pontiff to travel to kyiv that the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, already proposed a few weeks ago. Although the Vatican has assured that at the moment there is no planned trip, it is not the first time that Francis has visited a country in open war, he already went to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic in 2015, devastated by three years of civil war. . On that occasion he traveled escorted by blue helmets of the UN and the warring parties had established a truce. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, who performs functions similar to those of a foreign and interior minister in the civilian world, has repeated that the “main path” is to “stop the war” and then begin negotiations.