The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary, Moscow, Russia. | Sergey Ilyin-Mikhalski (Public Domain).
A Catholic archbishop in Moscow has welcomed “with great joy and gratitude” Pope Francis’ decision to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Speaking via telephone from a meeting in Siberia of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Russia, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi expressed hope in the power of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercessory prayer to “stop the bloodshed.”
“Fatima has a special bond, at least as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, with Russia and also with every conflict that takes place in the world,” Pezzi said, according to the Italian bishops’ news agency, SIR.
He added: “Certainly the symbolic meaning of this consecration comes from the fact that at this moment there is, unfortunately, an open conflict in Ukraine and what is asked first of all is that we can stop the bloodshed.”
Pezzi served as the president of the Russian Catholic bishops’ conference from 2011 to 2017.
The archbishop was born in Russi, Italy, in 1960 and has served the Catholic Church in Russia since 1993. He has led the Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow for the past 14 years and was granted Russian citizenship in 2011.
Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
On the same day, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski will also preside at an act of consecration in Fatima, Portugal. Krajewski, the papal almoner, was one of two papal envoys sent to Ukraine last week.
March 25 was the day in 1984 that John Paul II consecrated Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is also the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.
“Celebrating an act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means expressing that faith, hope, and charity are the normal, real conditions for true coexistence among peoples,” Pezzi said.
“It means expressing that mercy and forgiveness are a gift that God gives to those who first consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Pezzi wrote his doctoral dissertation on the persecution of Catholics in Siberia while studying at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. His study was later turned into a book, published in Italian.
Pope John Paul II appointed apostolic administrators for the pastoral care of Latin Rite Catholics in Moscow and Siberia in 1991.
Pezzi served as a missionary priest in Siberia for the pastoral care of Latin Rite Catholics from 1993 to 1998. He went on to serve as the rector for the major seminary in St. Petersburg until he was ordained a bishop in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Moscow in 2007.
Three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian Catholics constitute a small religious minority. The majority of the Russian population is affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Pezzi recalled an expression of John Paul II “in which he said that when the powerful of the earth meet, the Church prays.”