The war had been going on for two years when in March 1942, Sister Lucia was inspired to attempt to ask the Holy Father to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She told her spiritual director, Monseigneur Ferreira:
During this night of the 5th of March 1942, Our Lord seemed to make me feel more keenly that He would refuse to grant peace, because of the crimes which continue to provoke His justice, and also because His demands have not been met, especially that of the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, even though Our Lord had appealed to the heart of His Holiness to do this.
But Monseigneur Ferreira advised her against attempting anything at all. Fortunately, a little later, the Portugese bishops tried to send a supplication which Sister Lucia mentions in a letter to Father Gonçalves, dated the 6th of September 1942.
Concerning the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monseigneur the Bishop of Gurza has written to me several times. His Excellency has great desires and great hopes. During their last retreat, our Bishops agreed to send a new supplication to Rome, and to ensure that the bishops of other nations also send this supplication.
The Pope had already known for some time about the request for the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
- in 1936, by a letter from Father Pinho, the spiritual director of Alexandrina da Costa, who, that year, had received a request with the same meaning from Our Lord,
- in 1938, by a letter from the Portugese bishops repeating Father Pinho’s request,
- in 1940, by a letter from Sister Lucia in which the request for the consecration of Russia had been changed by Monseigneur da Silva to a request for the consecration of the world.
So, the request of the Portugese bishops finally convinced Pope Pius XII, who asked Cardinal Schuster, the archbishop of Milan, to publish Our Lady’s request, which he did in a Pastoral Letter dated the 13th of October 1942, as the Holy Father wanted the request to be known about before he pronounced the consecration he had in mind.
Then the Pope consulted the Holy Office on the timeliness of such a consecration, which responded “that there existed no theological objection on this matter, but that this consecration did not seem opportune”. Pope Pius XII decided to pass over the advice of the Holy Office and on the 31st of October 1942, in an allocution broadcast on the radio, he consecrated “the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”, mentioning Russia in the following way:
Give peace to the people separated by error and schism, particularly those who have a special devotion to You and among whom there was no home where Your venerable icon was not honoured, and where, at present, it may be hidden in the hope for better days. Bring them back to the One Fold of Christ, under the One True Shepherd. (See the complete text of the consecration at the end of this article.)
He solemnly renewed the consecration on the following 8th of December.
The results of this consecration were not long in coming. On the 22nd of October 1940 Our Lord had promised Sister Lucia, in return for this consecration “to abridge the days of tribulation by which he had decided to punish the world for its crimes”. And in fact, a few days after the consecration, the German armies suffered their first determinant defeats at El Alamein and Stalingrad.
At El Alamein on the 3rd of November, after ten days of terrible combat, Field Marshal Rommel was forced to retreat. And on the 8th, English and American troops landed in North Africa.
After having occupied most of Stalingrad, General Paulus’ Sixth Army was surrounded by a Russian offensive on the 19th of November and despite a counter-attack in mid-December, the Germans had to capitulate in February 1943.
It was also in November 1942 that the Battle of the Atlantic turned in the Allies favour. November was the best month of the war for the U-boats, with 800,000 tons sunk. But from January 1943, Allied losses diminished and the U-boats suffered such setbacks that the following May, Admiral Dönitz, chief of the Kriegsmarine, decided to withdraw all his submarines from the North Atlantic.
Thus, just after the consecration made on the 31st of October, on the three principal fronts, North Africa, Russia and the Atlantic, the Germans suffered serious setbacks, and the three months which followed mark the true turning point in the war.
Sister Lucia very quickly made it known that these victories were the fruits of the Holy Father’s action.
On the 28th of February, she wrote to the Bishop of Gurza: “The Good Lord has already showed me his satisfaction with the action undertaken by the Holy Father and by several bishops, even although according to his desire, it is incomplete. He promises in return to end the war soon. The conversion of Russia is not for now”.
Likewise, on the 4th of May 1943 she wrote to Father Gonçalves: “He [Our Lord] promises to end the war soon in consideration of the action which the Holy Father deigned to undertake. But as it was not complete, the conversion of Russia will be for later."
Pope Pius XII, seeing the results, decreed on the 4th of May 1944 that every year on the 22nd of August, octave day of the Assumption, the whole Church would celebrate a feast-day in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in order to preserve the memory of the consecration of the 8th of December 1942. He assigned this feast to obtain, by the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin, “peace between nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue”. (Missal of Dom Lefevbre, on the feast of the 22nd of August)
In the ordinary rite, this feast-day was transferred to the Saturday following the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Here is the complete prayer of the consecration by Pope Pius XII:
Queen of the Holy Rosary, help of Christians, refuge of the human race, conqueress of all God’s battles, we, supplicants, prostrate ourselves here at the foot of Your throne, certain of receiving graces, timely help and protection during the present calamities, not because of our merits, on which we cannot rely, but uniquely by reason of the great goodness of Your maternal heart.
To You, and to Your Immaculate Heart, in this tragic hour of human history, we entrust and consecrate ourselves, not only in union with the Holy Church – the Mystical Body of Your Son Jesus – which suffers and sheds its blood, prey to tribulations in so many places and so many ways, but also in union with the whole world, torn by bitter strife, consumed by the fire of hatred, and victim of its own wickedness.
Look with compassion on all material and moral destruction, by so much pain, so much anguish of fathers and mothers, brothers, innocent children, by so many lives cut down in the flower of youth, so many bodies torn to pieces in brutal slaughter, so many souls tortured and troubled, and so many in danger of being lost for all eternity.
Oh, Mother of Mercy, obtain peace for us from God, and especially those graces which can, in an instant, convert human hearts, those graces which can prepare, establish and assure peace! Queen of Peace, pray for us and give this world at war the peace for which all people long, peace in the Truth, Justice and Charity of Christ. Give them peace not only from arms, but also peace in their souls, that in tranquillity and order the Kingdom of God may expand. Grant your protection to infidels and to all those still walking in the shadow of death; give them peace; permit that the sun of Truth may rise upon them and that together with us they may repeat before the only Saviour of the world: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Lk 2:14)
Give peace to the people separated by error and schism, particularly those who have a special devotion to You and among whom there was no home where Your venerable icon was not honoured, and where, at present, it may be hidden in the hope for better days. Bring them back to the One Fold of Christ, under the One True Shepherd.
Obtain complete peace and liberty for the Holy Church of God, check the spreading flood of neo-paganism, arouse within the faithful love of purity, the practice of Christian life and apostolic zeal, so that the people who serve God may increase in merit and number.
Finally, in the same way that the Church and all of humanity were consecrated to the Heart of Your Son Jesus, so that, with all their hopes resting in Him, He became for them the sign and pledge of victory and salvation, thus and for always, we consecrate ourselves to You, to Your Immaculate Heart, oh, our Mother and Queen of the world so that Your love and Your protection hasten the triumph of the Kingdom of God and may all nations, at peace with each other and with God, proclaim You Blessed and sing with You from one end of the earth to the other, the eternal Magnificat of glory, love and gratitude to the Heart of Jesus in which alone they can find Truth, Life and Peace.