Special series on THE CHURCH IN RUSSIA for Tuesday, May 30, 2000
MOSCOW COMES TO FATIMA
Historic moment as Archbishop of Moscow visits Cova da Iria
Mary the Prophet
Mary the Prophet was fulfilling all her predictions made at this site in the Cova da Iria. Now there was a visible sign presented here at the Little Chapel of Apparitions that Mary the Evangelist was about to begin her new evangelization in Russia. When I placed my hand, something not premeditated, o the very spot where God's Mother stood on the little holm-oak tree, I spoke to the Archbishop of the land which had simultaneously been the country that had been the scourge of God to punish the sins of the world, and the object of Divine mercy by the promiseof its conversion through the intermediary of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I looked Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz in the eyes, turning out the fact that a television camera was on us. He held my hands and he looked me in the eyes steadily and directly. It was the only time he did so during our days together at Fatima.
The Archbishop had asked me to explain things to him in the Capelinha before he would pray formally. In the position described above, within the very area to which God's Mother radiated the light of God I spoke as follows:
"Archbishop, whenever Our Lady appeared here, Lucia's first words to the Mother of God were always, 'What do you want of me?' I'm sure, Archbishop, you have come to Fatima to ask Our Lady also, 'What do you want of me?' Our Blessed Mother said here, 'God wants devotion spread in the world to the Immaculate Heart of His Mother." From this very spot, our Blessed Mother said, 'Russia will be converted." You have been chosen, (I placed my hand on his shoulder as the bishop to begin to bring about that promise of the conversion of Russia."
The emotion of the historic moment was becoming almost too much for the Archbishop as tears welled up in his eyes. I backed away. The Archbishop of Moscow fell to his knees to pray. He knelt at the very spot where just five months previous to that day (May 12, 1991) I had seen Pope John Paul II fall to his needs with a crowd of over one million present. The large crowd gathered about the Little Chapel of Apparitions was silent as the Archbishop of Moscow prayed. Five months previously the tens of thousands were silent as Pope John Paul II prayed in silence.
In an interview for television Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz shared with me that when he was growing up in Byelorussia in his rural area there were about six years that there was no priest after their parish priest died. The family said the Rosary in the home. Sometimes the neighborhood went to the Church and the laity led prayers without a priest. They prayed the Rosary in their priestless church.
Survival During Priestless Years.
He told of another area of his acquaintance in the Soviet Union that was not so fortunate. The communists had destroyed the local church building. Each family of that area took a rock from their former parish chuch which had been demolished. At specific times, like on Sundays, each family would get out the rock of their former church round which to pray the Rosary and family prayers. During the priestless years, the Catholic faith was preserved through the praying of the Rosary.
The Archbishop, appointed to Moscow by Pope John Paul II only six months before his pilgrimage to Fatima, said in October 1991 that already in the short time he was in Moscow that at least twelve teenagers each week come to him wanting to become Catholic.
While Christians in their underground church in Russia knew something about Fatima for years, yet communists held it a crime to possess any book on Fatima, or any kind of religious book like Bible. He said, "Only there years previously people traveling to other countries could bring back but three religious books. But more recently no restrictions on the number of books remained."
On the evening of October 13, 1991 I gathered at a formal dinner with the Archbishop of Moscow and members of the German charity organization, Aid to the Church Present also was the Czechoslovakian van Straaten. Present also was the Czehoslovakian bishop then stationed in Rome, Bishop Pavol Maria Hnilica, S.J. (Vescovo titolare di Rusado). Present also was Jose Correa whose radio transmitter had enabled President Boris Yeltsin of the Republic of Russia to take to the airways to urge the people to resist the coup attempt of August 19, 1991 which, if successful, would have put in power the hard-liners who desired a return to the suppression of Communism that had existed since 1917. Irina Ilovaisky Alberti, chief editor from Paris, was there. Her great assistance and skill in the Russian language had assisted Jose Correa for some time in broadcasting live for two hours daily by radio from Brussels into the republics of what had been known as the Soviet Union.
Jose Correa had long been considered a part of Sr. Lucia's Santos family. Living in Brazil for some years he had assisted a Santos' relative in need and was thus accepted into the family circle and is able to visit Sr. Lucia when he goes to her Carmelite Monastery in Coimbra, Portugal. It is another remarkable sign of the hand of the Mother of God in the changes in Russia that one considered like a family member of the Santos by which Sr. Lucia entered the world should be the one whose radio transmitter was used by Boris Yeltsin to resist the coup attempt to return to old hard-line Communism.
While the coming of the newly-appointed Latin Rite Archbishop of Moscow to Fatima was indeed historic, no one doubtlessly appreciates more greatly than he the challenge and sufferings which still lie ahead. It is all a part of the assignment Pope John Paul II, in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church, has given to this relatively young Archbishop.
What is important for us is to continue to live the spirituality of Fatima, which affirms the Gospels. This means the daily rosary, living the Gospel values so as to perform our daily duty according to our state in life Eucharistic Reparation, the First Saturdays and our personal consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, etc. Sr. Lucia has said that continuing to make the Firs Saturdays will assist in a more perfect conversion of Russia.
Father Robert J. Fox