The Act of Consecration performed by Pope Francis, in union with all the bishops of the world on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, 2022, will go down in history. It will be so because of the dramatic circumstances in which it took place and because, accepting the request made to him by the Ukrainian Catholic bishops, Francis turned to Our Lady and consecrated Russia, as she had requested in her apparition of July 1917 at Fatima.
However, in my opinion, its historical significance should be sought beyond the circumstances surrounding it.
Last March 17, the Apostolic Nunciatures sent a communication to all the bishops, on behalf of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin which anticipated that, in the next few days Pope Francis will send a letter inviting you to join in a special prayer for peace on Friday, March 25. After announcing that on this date, the Holy Father will have a special celebration in which he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.added that it was the Pope's wish that this peace initiative be lived by all of God's holy people and in particular by priests and religious men and women, with local initiatives (in cathedrals, parish churches and Marian shrines) in the most suitable way in each Diocese..
This announcement was a first sign of the importance that the Pope gave to the Act he was about to perform. The Letter, dated March 21 in St. John Lateran, was addressed to every bishop, Dear Brother. After explaining the suffering of the Ukrainian people and the need to intercede with the "Prince of Peace", and also welcoming numerous petitions, Francis explains his intention: I wish to carry out a solemn Act of consecration of humanity, particularly of Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And then he adds the meaning that the Act will have: it wants to be a gesture of the universal Church, which in this dramatic moment brings to God, through the mediation of his and our Mother, the cry of pain of all those who suffer and implore an end to violence, and entrusts the future of humanity to the Queen of peace. For this reason, he concludes, I invite you to join in this Act, (...) so that the holy People of God may raise their supplication to their Mother in a unanimous and urgent manner.
Three characteristics can be noted in these steps of preparation of the Act: 1) the consecration would be a solemn Act, and such solemnity would be manifested in the fact that it would be performed by the Pope and the universal Church. 2) The consecration would be not only of Russia and Ukraine, but of all mankind. 3) The prayer of the whole Church will reach Heaven through the mediation of the Mother of God, who is also our Mother, and the future of humanity will be entrusted to Her.
The convocation of the Act had an extraordinary and surprising reception everywhere, as was verified throughout the world: the Marian fiber of Catholics was immediately manifested. In Europe, it could be held at the same time as in Rome, as the Pope had requested in his Letter. In some countries of America, the time difference was a difficulty, but, in all cases, it was carried out with great public attendance. (In Montevideo, specifically, the Mass and consecration was celebrated in the Cathedral at 5:00 p.m. which, to the surprise of many, was full on a weekday).
Mother of God and our Mother
The penitential liturgical celebration presided over by Francis began with biblical readings, followed by the Pope's homily. In it he stressed that he would perform the Act in union with the bishops and the faithful of the world; I solemnly desire to bring to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all that we are living; to renew to her the consecration of the Church and of all humanity and to consecrate to her, in a particular way, the Ukrainian people and the Russian people, who with filial affection venerate her as Mother. In his homily, Francis explained that the Act of Consecration is not a magic formula, no, it is not that; rather, it is a spiritual act. It is the gesture of full confidence of the children who, in the tribulation of this cruel war and this senseless war that threatens the world, have recourse to the Mother. In difficult times like the one we are living through now, Francis wanted to encourage us to approach the Heart of our Mother to place in her all that we have and all that we are, so that she, the Mother given to us by the Lord, may be the one to protect and take care of us.
After a time dedicated to his personal Confession and to confessing some penitents himself and, with him, more than a hundred priests, Pope Francis went to the image of Our Lady of Fatima to perform the Act of Consecration.
O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother (...) You are our Mother, you love us and you know us... With this precious invocation and declaration of the spiritual Motherhood of Mary began the prayer addressed to Our Lady. Holy Mother will call her, recognizing that it is God Himself who gave her to us as Mother on the Cross and placed in her immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for humanity.
Later, relying on the words full of affection that Our Lady said to St. Juan Diego in his apparition in Mexico in 1531, he turns to her to beg her: "Repeat to each one of us: "Am I not here, who am your Mother?" And he also turns to a Marian invocation (the Virgin Untied, venerated in Augsburg since 1707, to which Francis has a special devotion) to ask her with total confidence: "You know how to untie the tangles of our hearts and the knots of our time. We place our trust in you. We are sure that you, especially in these moments of trial, do not despise our supplications and come to our aid. (...)
Finally, limiting ourselves to what we are interested in underlining in the Pope's prayer, after reliving with the text of St. John the surrender of his Mother that Jesus made on the Cross, he will conclude: Mother, we want to welcome you now in our life and in our history. At this hour humanity, exhausted and overwhelmed, is with you at the foot of the Cross. And it needs to entrust itself to you, to consecrate itself to Christ through you (...) Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, we solemnly entrust and consecrate to your immaculate Heart our persons, the Church and humanity....
Meaning of the Act
What is the significance of the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pope Francis, united with him by the pastors and faithful of the whole world? The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium teaches that a religious gift of the will and understanding is due to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra, since it is his supreme magisterium. In turn, the Constitution immediately explains that this pontifical teaching is to be adhered to according to the manifest mind and will of the Holy Father, which is deduced principally either from the nature of the documents, or from the frequent proposition of the same doctrine, or from the way in which it is expressed (n. 25).
Applying these principles to the Act of Consecration of March 25 and taking into account its careful preparation, it could be affirmed: 1) It is an Act of consecration to Christ, invoking the maternal mediation of Mary, which in addition to its own theological importance of the first order, has as its object all of humanity and the whole Church. 2) Francis, using words and gestures (homilies, visits to Our Lady before and after his pastoral trips...) has made reference to the spiritual Motherhood of Mary on numerous occasions. 3) On this occasion, both in the Letter of Invitation addressed to the Bishops, as well as in the homily given before the consecration, and in the Prayer of Consecration, the way of referring to it as a Solemn Act -as he expresses it in the three documents- appears as very significant: does he not want to manifest that the spiritual Motherhood of Mary must permeate the life of the Church, beyond the difficult current circumstances?
The text of the Lumen Gentium also teaches that, although each of the Prelates does not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility by itself, nevertheless, when, although dispersed throughout the world, but maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, teaching authentically in matters of faith and morals, agree that a doctrine is to be considered definitive, in which case they infallibly propose the doctrine of Christ. (n. 25).
In turn, it would seem appropriate to recall what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained in its day: when there is no judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but it belongs to the patrimony of the depositum fidei and is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium - which necessarily includes that of the Pope - it must be understood as infallibly proposed. The intention of the ordinary and universal Magisterium to propose a doctrine as definitive is not generally linked to technical formulations of particular solemnity; it is sufficient that it be clear from the tenor of the words used and from the context.
Coming to the end of this analysis, one conclusion would be that the Act of Consecration of March 25, 2022, carried out by Pope Francis in union with all the bishops of the world, has solemnly manifested the profound conviction of faith that the Holy Father has in the maternal protection of Mary, who has been given to us by God as our Mother.
This certainty of faith has not changed since it was proclaimed and instilled by Jesus Christ to his own on Calvary: all generations of Christians have always lived it this way and, no doubt, it will remain so until the end of time because it is inscribed with a foundational stroke, so to speak, in the heart of the Church: to our Mother we go and we will always go with confidence, individually or collectively, before any danger or need, seeking protection, certain of her intercession and help.
In turn, the Act of Consecration can perhaps be placed in line-a line open to unprecedented events and multiple pastoral initiatives-with the desire expressed by St. John Paul II during the unforgettable Marian Year of 1987-1988, which preceded the fall of communism: through this Marian Year, he wrote then, the Church is called not only to recall all that in her past testifies to the special and maternal cooperation of the Mother of God in the work of salvation in Christ the Lord, but also to prepare, on her part, for the future, the ways of this cooperation.
Bishop emeritus of Minas (Uruguay).