On Sunday, October 12, Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, before the image of the Virgin of Fatima, which is being taken to Rome for the historic occasion. At 5:00 pm on Saturday the Holy Father will preside over the ceremony and give a Marian homily as the image is received in Saint Peter’s Square of the Virgin who in 1917 appeared to the three little shepherds. After the ceremony, the image will be taken to the Roman Shrine of Divine Love, which at 7:00 pm will be connected live with 10 other Marian Shrines worldwide for the praying of the Holy Rosary and the start of the Vigil “Con Maria oltre la notte” (With Mary Throughout the Night), as an event in the context of the Year of Faith, and organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
ZENIT interviewed the Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Father Carlos Cabecinha, who explained the importance of consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of the consecration of Francis’ pontificate and on the power of prayer, a constant of the Marian message.
ZENIT: How did this idea arise?
Father Cabecinha: The Pope’s invitation was a great honor for the Fatima Shrine and we hope also for all the devotees of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. By the request first of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and reiterated afterwards by Pope Francis, we will take the official image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima to Rome, the one venerated in the “Capelinha das Aparicoes” (little chapel of the Apparitions).
It will be the first time that this image isn’t in Fatima in a great pilgrimage and anniversary, because we always celebrate her from May to October on the days of the 12th and 13th. Pilgrims have understood the importance of the Pope’s invitation, also because it will be important in spreading the Fatima message, that’s why the devotees have received the news of Her journey with joy.During these two days in which the image of the Virgin will be in Rome, the first Pilgrim Image of Fatima, which went around the world on pilgrimage in the decade of the 40s, will be placed in the “Capelinha das Aparicoes.
ZENIT: How did this initiative arise in Pope Francis to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary? When did he tell you this?
Father Cabecinha: The request was due to the Pope’s desire to have the image of the Virgin of Fatima in Rome for the Marian Day of this Year of Faith, an image of Our Lady that was an expression of the Marian devotion of the Catholic universe. The Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Bishop Antonio Marto, has been informed that the act of consecration of the world by the Pope will take place at the end of the Eucharist on the 13th.
ZENIT: The Holy Father already asked you to consecrate his pontificate on May 13, no?
Father Cabecinha: Yes, it’s true. After the election, Pope Francis asked Cardinal Jose Policarpo, then Patriarch of Lisbon, to consecrate his Petrine ministry to Our Lady of Fatima. “Pope Francis asked me twice to consecrate his new ministry to Our Lady of Fatima. It’s a mandate that I can carry out in the silence of prayer. But it would be lovely if the whole Episcopal Conference associated itself to this request. Mary will guide us in all our works and also in the way of fulfilling this desire of Pope Francis,” Cardinal Jose Policarpo said at the time.
The moment of the consecration for which “all the People of God” were invited, took place at the end of the International Eucharist of the 96th pilgrimage, on the anniversary of Mary’s first apparition in Fatima, last May 13, in the Fatima Shrine.
ZENIT: What does the consecration to Mary mean?
Father Cabecinha: To consecrate the Pope’s ministry to Our Lady meant to give Pope Francis to Mary with confidence, so that she will help, protect and guide him; so that she will be his example of dedication to God, of attentive listening to His Word, of availability to His will, of docility to the Holy Spirit, of prayer.
Pope Francis, aware of the difficulty and the demands of the mission entrusted to him, felt the need of the maternal help of Our Lady. As Pope, he continues Peter’s ministry in the Church, as the one who presides in charity over the communion of the Churches. If God is the true principle and foundation of the unity of the Church, the Successor of Peter has the mission of making visible, by his ministry, God Himself, principle and foundation of the unity of the faith and of ecclesial communion. And his mission is a real “ministry,” namely, a service: in the following of Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve, the Pope is the “Servant of the servants of God”; he is in the Church at the service of unity, of truth and of charity. This is a mission that is impossible to carry out with one’s own strength. For this reason, Pope Francis asked that his ministry be consecrated to Our Lady.
ZENIT: The Virgin of Fatima asked the three shepherds for the consecration of Russia and the world to her Immaculate Heart. What was the historical context?
Father Cabecinha: Our Lady did in fact ask for the consecration of Russia and the world to her Immaculate Heart, as the way to obtain peace in the world lacerated by wars and seeing the emergence of regimes that professed as militant atheism, which desired the expulsion of God from humanity’s horizons.
ZENIT: Has the consecration been made? By whom and how many times?
Father Cabecinha: Pope Pius XII carried out several consecrations of the world to Our Lady, but it was Pope John Paul II who in 1984, before the image of Our Lady of Fatima, in Rome, consecrated the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with the Bishops of the whole world. Later the visionary Lucia confirmed that that act of consecration was carried out in consonance with Our Lady’s request. In the Jubilee of the Bishops in the year 2000, John Paul II consecrated the new millennium to Our Lady, again before the same image, in Rome.
ZENIT: Just as the world changed after the consecration to her Immaculate Heart, with the last Vigil of Prayer and Fasting for peace in Syria, called by Pope Francis, it was evident that the world scene changed.
Father Cabecinha: The Holy Father had an idea illumined by God when he thought of this universal moment of prayer and fasting, because of the force of prayer itself and because of what the call of attention meant at the world level given this human tragedy. Throughout the whole of that Saturday I was able to see in what way the Holy Father’s appeal was received by Christian pilgrims in this Shrine. All the Masses and Rosaries inscribed in the official program had peace as the intention: in Syria, in the Middle East and in the whole world. The high point here in Fatima was the Vigil of Prayer, which gathered many pilgrims from so many countries. The Vigil, in the Chapel of the Apparitions, was presided over by the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima.
It was an intense moment of prayer, which made us feel united with the Holy Father who was also presiding in Rome over a Vigil of Prayer; we were united with all the peoples suffering the scourge of war and united with all Christians that, throughout the world, accepted Pope Francis’ appeal.
Prayer is a powerful “weapon, with unique efficacy, because it is guaranteed by God; it is the “weapon” of the poor and the peaceful, who know that violence never generates peace or harmony. It is a path of unity and peace. And this is one of the dimensions of the message of Fatima that cannot be given up, in which the appeal to prayer is constant and helps us to be aware of the force and importance of praying.