Bishops across Ukraine have enthusiastically welcomed tomorrow’s consecration of the country and its neighbour to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of Kharkiv-Zaporiyia told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “I would like to share with you my joy over the initiative of Pope Francis to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The bishop is based in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, which has been bombarded by Russian forces since the invasion began. A missile struck his house on Tuesday 1st March, tearing a hole in the roof. No one was injured.
Bishop Honcharuk said that, in the middle of suffering and destruction, the consecration was “a sign of God’s victory, of love, of goodness and of life”.
He added: “Like other dioceses in Ukraine, our diocese has begun to prepare novenas to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and we are now getting ready for such a beautiful event.”
Catholic communities have organised various prayers ahead of the consecration – and Bishop Honcharuk asked people around the world to pray the Rosary for Mary’s intercession that there might be an end to the conflict.
Speaking to ACN, Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk of Odessa said: “Along with the whole world, we are praying with great hope, and we are asking for prayer.”
Bishop Szyrokoradiuk said that, despite relative calm at the start of the invasion, Odessa had been under fire from Russian soldiers over the last few days and that there had been frequent air raid warnings.
He added: “So many people are dying every day”.
Odessa, which is the third most populous city in Ukraine, lies on the Black Sea not far from Crimea, where the Russian Federation has battleships stationed.
Bishop Szyrokoradiuk said: “We are constantly afraid of an attack from the sea.”
But, the prelate stressed that they had faith in the act of consecration.
He said: “We believe in the help of Mary, the Mother of God.”
Pope Francis will consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at 4pm (GMT) on 25th March in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
He has called upon bishops around the world to join him in the consecration – and for the faithful to assemble in solidarity and prayer.
Pope Francis said: “This act of consecration is meant to be a gesture of the universal Church, which in this dramatic moment lifts up to God, through his mother and ours, the cry of pain of all those who suffer and implore an end to the violence, and to entrust the future of our human family to the Queen of Peace.”