Recently I finished reading a beautiful book entitled, Fatima Mysteries, written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions and messages of Our Blessed Mother to the three small shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Renowned author-photographer team, Grzegorz Górny and Janusz Rosikon, traveled throughout Europe to tell the story of Fatima, with stunningly beautiful color photographs and brought in-depth detail and insights on all aspects of the story and message of Fatima.
In their book, the authors relate how, in 1996, they travelled with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which left Portugal to circulate around the former Soviet Union from December until the following July, 1997. The Virgin was welcomed enthusiastically and carried in procession throughout many Russian cities, even in those places where Communism had left its bloody mark: forced labor camps, Katyn Forest (the site of the mass execution of Polish military officers and intelligentsia), World War II battlefields, etc.
The highlight of this tour, it would seem, came while they were staying with Franciscan brothers in the city of Moscow. The authorities had not agreed to a public exhibition of the statue, but as the Franciscans recalled that St. Maximilian Kolbe had once predicted that the statue of Our Lady would one day stand in Red Square, writer Janusz Rosikon persuaded the monks to take the statue there. They did with some misgivings and the statue was ostentatiously placed right in the center of Red Square directly at the foot of the Kremlin wall. Not a single policeman interfered. A photo session was arranged and these photos would later be circulated throughout the entire world — a reminder of Our Lady’s words in Fatima, “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart.”
On March 25, 1984, in St. Peter’s Square, before the Fatima Shrine statue of Our Lady, with about 200,000 faithful present, and numerous bishops and cardinals, and in union with all the bishops throughout the entire world, Pope St. John Paul II solemnly consecrated the world, including Russia, to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, as had been requested by Our Lady at Fatima.
Ironically, not even two months later, on May 13, 1984 (the 67th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance at Fatima), a deadly series of munitions fires, known as the Severomorsk Disaster, occurred in a Russian naval base located near Finland on the Barents Sea. The fire turned catastrophic when it caused a massive chain of explosions resulting in the deaths of nearly 300 Russian military personnel and the destruction of at least 900 of the Northern fleets’ missiles and torpedoes.
In Fatima Mysteries, Grzegorz Gorny and Janusz Rosikon reported that years later, Sr. Lucia wrote: “Everyone knows perfectly well that we went through one of the most critical moments in human history, when the great, mutually hostile powers planned a nuclear war that would have destroyed the world, if not the whole world, then the greater part of it. And what would have remained? What chances of survival? And who could have dissuaded those arrogant people, surrounded by their war plans…? Who, if not God.”
Is it not then providential that Our Lady is continuing to manifest her maternal intercession in Russia? At a recent gathering of about 40 bishops and ordinaries of sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in Rome this past September 2019, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, approved a project to construct the first official sanctuary to be dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima in St. Petersburg, in the very heart of Russia!
Fr. Alejandro Burgos, a Spanish missionary priest stationed in St. Petersburg, had an icon made depicting Our Lady of Fatima, inscribed with the quote, “It is in you that unity is realized.” Fr. Burgos said, “The Orthodox confessions are not opposed to this project (to build the sanctuary, which will be dedicated to the Byzantine Rite, and become the new home to this icon). Many Russians have a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, who interceded for the conversion of Russia during the Communist persecution.”