Bishops in contested areas are setting their hope on the international consecration of Pope Francis.
Four weeks after the beginning of the war many believers in Ukraine are setting great hope on the latest initiative of Pope Francis, the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Speaking to the international foundation 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.”
“My God, so many people are dying every day”
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.
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 caused 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 Kharkov 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.”
Since the beginning of the war, Kharkov 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.
Consecration is “a sign of God’s victory”
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 17:00 on 25 March in 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 the upcoming consecration on 25 March the Vatican has published its own consecration prayer. A copy of the image from Fatima will soon be sent to Ukraine and solemnly received there.