Prayer, diplomacy, solidarity: floors in same building

On Friday, in a move that raised the eyebrows of some, Pope Francis consecrated Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

A good Jesuit, Francis is applying the maxim “Pray as if everything depended on God, work as if everything depended on you,” a Vatican official told La Croix’s Loup Besmond de Senneville.

In the Vatican, prayer is also closely linked to the diplomatic efforts undertaken since the beginning of the conflict.

“You don’t put diplomacy in one box and spiritual activity in another,” said a Holy See diplomat.

“If we are conducting this diplomacy, it is because we are Catholic,” he said.

“There are different levels of action,” said a Roman Curia official close to the pope, pointing out that these include prayer, diplomacy and solidarity.

“It’s as if these dimensions were somehow the floors of the same building.

“When it comes to prayer, the pope is trying to play a different card with a much more spiritual aspect.

“It is a card that only the Vatican can play,” said the diplomat.

Friday’s act of consecration is linked to the Marian apparitions that are said to have taken place at Fatima in 1917 and is intimately linked to petitions for peace.

“Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons,” Francis prayed.

During the ceremony, Francis pointed out that the consecration is not a “magic formula”.

Calling it a “spiritual act,” Francis said the consecration is “an act of complete trust”.

He said it comes from children who, “amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother, reposing all their fears and pain in her heart and abandoning themselves to her.”

The prayer service is Francis’ latest effort to rally prayers for an end to the war.

“We are on the verge of the third world war: for Francis, it is urgent to mobilise all spiritual forces,” a close friend of Francis told.

“Francis’ gesture may raise some eyebrows. But it is, in fact, profoundly realistic”, writes Dominique Greiner, La Croix’s senior editor.

Consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary reminds us that the roots of war are always in the human heart: we, therefore, need spiritual remedies to put an end to it.

Greiner goes further, calling the consecration “prophetic”; the defenceless voices of prayer denouncing the deployment of increasingly sophisticated weapons that sow death and desolation.

Francis praying like this Greiner calls a sign of hope, a sign that peace is possible.

On Sunday, the Holy Father followed up his Friday prayer for peace by telling thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square that the threat of a global conflict spawned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should convince everyone that the time has come for humanity to abolish war before it abolishes humanity.

“More than a month has passed since the invasion of Ukraine, since the start of this cruel and senseless war which, like every war, is a defeat for everyone, for all of us,” he said to thousands of people in St Peter’s Square for his Sunday blessing.

“We must repudiate war, a place of death where fathers and mothers bury their children, where men kill their brothers without even seeing them, where the powerful decide and the poor die,” Francis said.

“I beg every politician involved to reflect on this, to make a commitment and, looking at martyred Ukraine, to understand that every day of war worsens the situation for everyone,” he said.

“Abolish war now, before war erases humanity from history.”

“Enough! Stop! Let the weapons fall silent. Negotiate seriously for peace,” he said.


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