John Paul II’s Consecration of Russia

COMMENTARY: The Polish Pope made an act of entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary 38 years ago.

Pope St. John Paul II consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, 1984.
Pope St. John Paul II consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, 1984. (photo: Courtesy photo / Fatima Family Apostolate)

This Friday, March 25, at 5pm local time in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will perform a ceremony consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. His prayer will include not only Russia and Ukraine, but all of humanity. The text reads: “Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.”

Francis’ act of consecration is significant, especially for the obvious intention of peace. It also, however, prompts some Catholics to question whether this means that John Paul II’s act of consecration on March 25, 1984, was not valid. That validity is known only to heaven itself. I will not dare endeavor to try to resolve it here. But as a biographer of John Paul II and a Cold War historian who has written at length about Fatima, I can at least here offer some clarification regarding what John Paul II did.

On March 25, 1984, Pope John Paul II sought to finally accomplish what Our Lady of Fatima had requested seven decades earlier. He set out to consecrate communist Russia to her Immaculate Heart, the promised step to turning the Soviet state away from its wicked ways. 

Other consecrations had been offered before, by Pope Pius XII, on Oct. 31, 1942, and July 7, 1952, and even by John Paul II in his May 13, 1982, long homily at Fatima on the one-year anniversary of his near-assassination. He actually composed an “Act of Entrustment” on June 7, 1981. These, however, failed to meet the criteria that it was believed had been called for by the Lady in Fatima in 1917. First and foremost, they had not been done in full communion and coordination with the world’s bishops. 

And so, on March 25, 1984, from the Vatican, John Paul II attempted to rectify all errors. Four months earlier, on Dec. 8, 1983, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Pontiff sent a letter to all bishops of the world, both Roman Catholic and Orthodox, asking them to join him in March for an Act of Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The four-month period allowed plenty of time for the letter to get to the bishops for prayer and reflection. They had been well-notified in advance.

More than that, the Pontiff gathered up the previous texts of consecration and consulted Sister Lucia, the last of the remaining Fatima children. He wanted to know how to fulfill what Our Lady has asked. It was believed that Lucia continued to get visits from the Blessed Mother years after the initial appearances in Fatima in 1917. She was said to be in literal consultation with higher authorities.

“Never before in the history of the Catholic Church had any pope gone so far to fulfill the requests made by heaven through a private revelation,” wrote Father Andrew Apostoli.

The site of the consecration would be St. Peter’s Square. The Act of Entrustment would take place by the current pope in front of a statue of Our Lady brought from Fatima by the bishop of Leiria-Fatima. The statue was to the side of the altar. The act of consecration would occur outside, in the open air, with the Holy Father kneeling nearest the altar and other priests kneeling nearby. Many cardinals and bishops came, joined by some 200,000 faithful gathered in and around the square. Bishops not present kneeled in their home dioceses around the world. It was believed that this was the “collegial union” that had been lacking in Pope Pius XII’s attempted consecrations.

Before starting the Mass, John Paul II gave an introduction: “In remembrance of the ‘Fiat’ uttered by her at the moment of the Annunciation, I will today entrust to her Immaculate Heart — in spiritual union with all the bishops of the world — all individuals and peoples, repeating in substance the act that I made at Fatima on May 13, 1982.” 

That was the first of several words like “all individuals and peoples.” That is significant, as “all” would mean “all,” including Soviet Russia.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the Pontiff proceeded with the act of consecration, using a roughly-1,000-word text revised from his original entrustment text in May 1982. He began, “We have recourse to your protection, holy Mother of God.” He then stated, “We find ourselves united with all the pastors of the Church …,” and pleaded, “O Mother of individuals and peoples, you who know all their sufferings and their hopes … In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations [emphasis original] which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated.”

This was section one of a three-part text. The second part was directed comprehensively at all times, all peoples and all nations:

“Behold, as we stand before you, Mother of Christ, before your Immaculate Heart, we desire, together with the whole Church, to unite ourselves with the consecration which, for love of us, your Son made of himself to the Father: ‘For their sake,’ he said, ‘I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in the truth’ (John 17:19). We wish to unite ourselves with our Redeemer in this his consecration for the world and for the human race, which, in his divine Heart, has the power to obtain pardon and to secure reparation.

“The power of this consecration lasts for all time and embraces all individuals, peoples and nations. It overcomes every evil that the spirit of darkness is able to awaken, and has in fact awakened in our times, in the heart of man and in his history.”

After a few more words in section two, Pope John Paul II then went into the third and final part of the consecration:

“In entrusting to you, oh Mother, the world, all individuals and peoples, we also entrust to you this very consecration of the world, placing it in your motherly Heart.
“Immaculate Heart! Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future! […]
“Accept, Oh Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies. Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin: individual sin and the ‘sin of the world,’ in all its manifestations.
“Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love! May it put a stop to evil! May it transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope!”

And with that, it was finished. This was, it was hoped, what the Blessed Mother had asked for decades earlier, beginning with three little children in the tiny village of Fatima. Would peace now begin to prevail? Would an Evil Empire now become a better place? Was the Cold War and a century of errors and persecutions by communist Russia now on its way out? 

Of course, many reading this will notice in the consecration no direct reference to Russia, to the Soviet Union, to the USSR. For diplomatic reasons, John Paul II, like Pius XII, decided not to make a literal reference to the country that was the object of the consecration. I do not know which particular Vatican official/diplomat, or set of officials/diplomats, persuasively made that case to the Pontiff, though it was a decision destined for major controversy and confusion. 

And yet, John Paul II did believe that this particular line had referred to Russia specifically: “In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which particularly need to be entrusted and consecrated.” That was merely one such line. As is evident in the text, he used the word “all” several times in regard to nations, individuals, peoples, societies, the times, the entire human race: “for the world and for the human race … for all time and … all individuals, peoples and nations.” All, of course, included Russia first and foremost. 

For the record, Sister Lucia confirmed the consecration’s authenticity in writing, including letters dated Aug. 29, 1989, July 3, 1990, and Nov. 21, 1999. In the Aug. 29, 1989, letter, addressed to Sister Mary of Bethlehem, Lucia stated that John Paul II “made the consecration in the way in which the Blessed Virgin had wished that it should be made. Afterward people asked me if it was made in the way Our Lady wanted, and I replied: ‘Yes.’ From that time, it is made!” Lucia’s July 3, 1990, letter was sent to Father Robert J. Fox, of the Fatima Family Apostolate, in which she stated unequivocally:

“I come to answer your question, ‘If the consecration made by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1984, in union with all the bishops of the world, accomplished the conditions for the consecration of Russia according to the request of Our Lady in Tuy on June 13 of 1929?’ Yes, it was accomplished, and since then I have said that it was made. And I say that no other person responds for me; it is I who receive and open all letters and respond to them.”

Lucia also verbally affirmed the authenticity to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who spent much time with her discussing the matter. In 2008, as the then-Vatican secretary of state and highest-ranking Church official, Cardinal Bertone put everything on the record in his crucial book, The Last Secret of Fatima. He said there, “The Act of Entrustment was entirely in accord with what the Blessed Mother had asked for.” He shared Lucia’s affirmation: “Sister Lucia personally confirmed that this solemn consecration of the whole world satisfied Mary’s wishes.” He quoted her directly: “Yes, it has been performed, as Our Lady requested, on March 25, 1984.” She told him that “the consecration Our Lady wished for was performed in 1984 … it was accepted by Heaven.” He further attested: “Lucia confirmed Mary’s satisfaction in a letter she sent to the pope on November 8, 1989” — the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Cardinal Bertone summed up confidently: “So Russia has been consecrated, and the consecration was performed on March 25, 1984.”

Still, doubts remain in the minds of many, and especially so as Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, in 2022 brutally invades neighboring Ukraine with his Russian army, threatening nothing short of World War III. Whether those doubts have merit is known only to heaven itself.

In the meantime, Pope Francis, this Friday, will be consecrating Russia and Ukraine and all of humanity to the Immaculate Heart. And I have no doubts that there is nothing wrong with that. One would think that such an act can only help, and certainly cannot hurt. Let us now, in March 2022, as in March 1984, simply pray for peace. It’s what the Blessed Mother and Lord Jesus would want.