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Fatima and the Conversion of Russia: Pope Francis Meets President Putin
By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The return of Christianity to Russia should give us hope for our own Nation as we face the effects of moral relativism, secularism and the growing hostility toward Christianity. I want to suggest something which will raise many eyebrows.Is what is happening in Russia a partial fulfillment of the promised conversion of that Nation? President Putin exchanging icons of Mary with Pope Francis was not simply a mere nicety. Accounts which have surfaced indicate that it was done with reverence and genuine signs of Christian piety. Could this be a part of the promise of Fatima being fulfilled?
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On Monday afternoon, November 25, 2013, Pope Francis met President Putin in the Vatican. Here is the official Communique of the Holy See Press Office: Audience of the Holy Father Granted to the President of the Russian Federation, His Excellency Mr. Vladimir Putin
In the afternoon of Monday 25 November 2013, the President of the Russian Federation, His Excellency Mr. Vladimir Putin, was received in audience by the Holy Father Francis. Mr. Putin subsequently went on to meet with the Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations, and the Parties focused on various questions of common interest, especially in relation to the life of the Catholic community in Russia, revealing the fundamental contribution of Christianity in society. In this context, mention was made of the critical situation faced by Christians in some regions of the world, as well as the defense of and promotion of values regarding the dignity of the person, and the protection of human life and the family.
Furthermore, special attention was paid to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and the grave situation in Syria, with reference to which President Putin expressed thanks for the letter addressed to him by the Holy Father on the occasion of the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg. Emphasis was placed on the urgency of the need to bring an end to the violence and to ensure necessary humanitarian assistance for the population, as well as to promote concrete initiatives for a peaceful solution to the conflict, favoring negotiation and involving the various ethnic and religious groups, recognizing their essential role in society.
The Moscow Times noted that the meeting was a part of an official State visit of the President of Russia to Italy. However, thay also noted that it was one more sign of the warming of relations between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches. In the report by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber filed on the day of the meeting the Times also noted another meeting which preceded this one. Here is an excerpt:
Since the election of Pope Francis to head the Vatican in March, there have been signs that the two churches are eager to ease the tensions that have dominated their relations in recent decades and that date back all the way to the Great Schism of 1054.Ahead of Putin's visit, Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill met with an influential Catholic archbishop in Moscow last week, attesting to the more amiable nature of inter-church ties.
"We live in an epoch when many of our historic differences should stop playing the critical role they have played in relations between our churches," Kirill said at the meeting with Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola, RIA Novosti reported. At first glance, Putin and Francis may not seem to have the most compatible personalities, especially when it comes to lifestyle. While Putin enjoys the use of more than a half-dozen presidential residences, Francis refuses to indulge in papal privileges, and Putin's purported watch collection would likely not have fit in the single suitcase Francis took with him to Rome when he became pope.
But Putin says he is a man of faith, and he makes an overt effort to show his close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church."I cannot speak about Vladimir Putin's faith on a personal level," said Natalya Pecherskaya, rector of the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy. "But as a scholar, I can say that Putin's policies have brought religion to the forefront and have triggered positive change in inter-church relations."
Putin regularly makes public appearances at Russian Orthodox services on major holidays, and he has said he has read the Bible and even keeps a copy on his plane. Putin formed a friendship with late Patriarch Alexy II and is close to the current head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who is a strong political ally.
Is the Conversion of Russia Underway?
Patriarch Kirill is a champion of the authentic Orthodox Christian Tradition and a stalwart defender of the doctrine of the ancient Christian Faith of the First Millennium - before the first split in the Church occurred. He has been outspoken in his concern over the moral decline in Russian, European and broader western culture. He is also doing something about it - by leading a resurgence of Christianity and a new missionary undertaking to Russian culture.
In an insightful analysis written for Catholic Online in 2010 enthronement entitled Patriarch Kirill & Pope Benedict: A Tale of Two Leaders for a new Missionary Age Orthodox priest Fr Johannes L. Jacobse, the editor of Orthodoxy Today and President of the American Orthodox Institute opined in 2010: Patriarch Kirill is a theological conservative in the mold of Pope Benedict. Both see religion as the wellspring of culture. Both understand that Europe cannot escape a final capitulation to tyranny if it does not rediscover its Christian roots.
Patriarch Kirill has offered a voice of clarity and authority to the growing Catholic and Orthodox critique of the decline of moral values and the hostility of the contemporary culture toward the Church. He openly decries the growing rejection of Christian influence throughout the world. He warns of the dangers that such a rejection present to civilization and authentic freedom. He calls Orthodox Christians to be actively involved in reclaiming the culture with the values informed by the ancient faith.
Shortly after his election, the Patriarch noted that, in the Vatican and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox (people) are their allies. And Orthodox (people) are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism. His first message to the faithful - and to the world as millions watched by television and internet - emphasized his commitment to reaching out to the young, his dedication to working with those whom he called the sister churches and his strong intention to combat moral relativism.
One of the signs of the work of the Holy Spirit is the rediscovery between Orthodox and Catholic Christians of our common Baptismal bond in Jesus Christ. I am numbered among a growing number who believe that the Holy Spirit is gathering a movement of Orthodox and Catholic Christians to collaborate in this critical hour in history. There ismore that joins theologically faithful Catholics and theologically faithful Orthodox than that which separates us. The urgency of the cultural decline compels our collaboration in Christ. It is also leading us to a growing mutual respect which may pave the way toward some form of restored communion.
Polls in Russia indicated that only 5 percent of Russians were observant in the practice of their Orthodox Christian faith when the Patriarch was enthroned. Less than 30 percent expressed their commitment to following the moral teaching of the Church. Prophetic and prayerful Church Leadership has made an extraordinary difference. Those who profess and practice the Christian faith are increasing in Russia and the influence of the Church oon the Culture is on the rise.
Patriarch Kirill has faced opposition within the Orthodox Church for his dialogue with the Catholic Church. However, he has showed no sign of retreat, particularly in joint efforts aimed at stemming the growing spread of the culture of death and the sordid fruit of moral relativism. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sent an especially meaningful gift to the new Patriarch when he was enthroned, a chalice with which he now consecrates the blood of Christ. He expressed his hope in these words, "It is my earnest hope that we will continue to cooperate in finding ways to foster and strengthen communion in the body of Christ in fidelity to our savior's prayer that all may be one so that the world may believe".
Asia news reported that between 40,000 and 65,000 of the lay faithful and Orthodox priests gathered in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow for a day of Prayer back on on April 22, 2012 at the request of the Patriarch. He led the historic event. His call for this day of prayer, as well as the response of the Orthodox faithful, reflect Kirill's influence in Russia. Asia news interviewed Olga Golubeva, 54, a lawyer, who participated in the procession and prayer gathering. She said, I came here because there is a risk that Russia will return to its past without God, Another participant, Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for political technologies in Moscow told them, The Church needs this kind of events to prove it has more supporters than detractors - but also to consolidate the support of clergy and faithful.
I do not know the full story of what is happening in Russia. However, I have confidence in sources which affirm that Patriarch Kirill is a man of deep Christian faith who seeks to lead of resurgence of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. That resurgence is underway. He also has a genuine respect for the Catholic Church. He sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as sister churches. The return of Christianity to Russia is a welcome turn of history. It should give us hope for our own Nation as we face the effects of moral relativism, secularism and the growing hostility toward Christianity. I want to suggest something which will raise many eyebrows, as the expression goes.
Is Fatima's Promise Being Fulfilled?
On July 26, 2000 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued The Message of Fatima It should be read by anyone who seeks to understand the approach that the Church, as mother and teacher, takes to private revelation. In that document the Congregation specifically addressed what is referred to as the Third Secret of Fatima. It was explained to Blessed John Paul II by Sr. Lucia, one of the visionaries. Few messages have ever received as much interest as this third secret, at least in some in contemporary Catholic circles. The interest has sometimes led to excessive curiosity and, in some circles, some of the reaction has smacked of a contemporary form of Gnosticism.
The core of the message of Fatima, when properly understood and received, is a call to genuine conversion to Jesus Christ. It is a little gospel. The children were told by Mary, the Mother of God, to tell all of us to repent from sin, do penance, turn back to Jesus Christ. Then, to live lives of prayer and sacrifice in order to participate in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ as it continues through the work of the Church, which is his body. Some of what was told to the children concerned the consequences which would occur if people did not exercise their freedom properly by turning away from sin and turning back to God.
In the context of the document on the Fatima message, the Congregation noted: Sister Lucia had already given an indication for interpreting the third part of the "secret" in a letter to the Holy Father, dated 12 May 1982: The third part of the secret refers to Our Lady's words: If not [Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated' (13-VII-1917).
The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the Message, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the Message itself asks of us: 'If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, etc.'.
Since we did not heed this appeal of the Message, we see that it has been fulfilled; Russia has invaded the world with her errors. And if we have not yet seen the complete fulfillment of the final part of this prophecy, we are going towards it little by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred, revenge, injustice, violations of the rights of the human person, immorality and violence, etc.
And let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.
Now is where I will raise some eyebrows with some of what I am about to say. Is what is happening in Russia a partial fulfillment of the promised conversion of that Nation offered by Our Lady to the children of Fatima? President Putin exchanging icons of Mary with Pope Francis was not simply a mere nicety. Accounts which have surfaced indicate that it was done with reverence and genuine signs of Christian piety.
Russia, as official policy, is now defending marriage as between one man and one woman, open to life and formative of family. Just this week president Putin signed legislation outlawing advertisements for abortion in Russia. This is a part of a growing recognition of the Rights of children in the womb as restrictions on abortion continue to grow. Parents are being encouraged to have children and the public policy of the Russian government is being adapted to promote such fruitfulness and hold it up for respect, protection and emulation.
The Russian Orthodox Church is free to speak clearly and authoritatively to the Russian people on matters of faith and morals in Russia today. Indications are that there is a resurgence of Christianity underway. To those who are raising their eyebrows, I am not being naive. I am not saying the President Putin has fully embraced the Christian faith. However, he claims that he has. I do find it distressing that our own President Obama, who professes to be a Christian, has intentionally promoted policies and laws which threaten the sanctity of marriage and the family. He has stopped his ears to the cry of the poorest of the poor in their mother's womb and refuses to defend their Right to Life. He seeks to silence the prophetic and moral voice of the Church in our Nation.
I love the United States of America. On this week when we pause to give thanks, I also know that the goodness in the soul of America will not be extinguished. However, I am first, last and all in between, a Catholic Christian. And, I recognize that something quite promising is happening in Russia. Could this be a part of the promise of Fatima being fulfilled? Could the warming of relations between the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, and the Patriarch of Russia be a sign of the healing of the ancient divisions within the Christian community? Might this all lead to a resurgence of Christianity around the world and the dawning of a new missionary age? I pray that it does.
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