Pope’s peace prayer for Ukraine recalls Fatima’s prophecy

Rome: Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine in a ceremony on March 25, and harked back to a century-old apocalyptic prophecy about peace and Russia that was sparked by purported visions of the Virgin Mary to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.

Francis invited bishops, priests, and ordinary faithful around the world to join him in the consecration prayer, which opened with Francis entering St. Peter’s Basilica before an estimated 3,500 people and concluded with Francis sitting alone before a statue of the Madonna. There, he solemnly asked forgiveness that humanity had “forgotten the lessons learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two World Wars.”

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

The service was Francis’ latest effort to rally prayers for an end to the war while keeping open options for dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and its influential leader, Patriarch Kirill. Francis has yet to publicly condemn Russia by name for its invasion, though his denunciations of the war in Ukraine have grown increasingly outraged.

The prayer ritual was of deep spiritual importance to many Catholics and a source of fascination to others. It deals with some of the more controversial aspects of the Catholic faith: purported visions of the Madonna, revelations of hell, Soviet communism, and the death of a pope, and questions about whether the prophecies contained in the so-called “secrets of Fatima” have already been fulfilled or not.

To hammer home the universal nature of the event, the Vatican translated the text of the prayer into three dozen languages. Retired Pope Benedict XVI participated from his home in the Vatican gardens. A papal envoy celebrated a simultaneous service at the shrine in Fatima.

The Fatima story dates to 1917 when according to tradition, Portuguese siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their cousin Lucia said the Virgin Mary appeared to them six times and confided to them three secrets. The first two described an apocalyptic image of hell, foretold the end of World War I and the start of World War II, and portended the rise and fall of Soviet communism. The children were between 7 and 10 years old at the time.

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