The act of consecration of Russia by Pope Francis on March 25, 2022 raises questions about how it is perceived by the Russian Orthodox.
As Bishop Athanasius Schneider recalled in an interview with Diane Montagna for the American site OnePeterFive, on March 21: “In Fatima, Portugal, the Mother of God revealed: Russia will convert to Catholic unity. The painful division between the Church of East and West has already torn Russia away from Christ’s true Church for 900 years.” How do the Orthodox view this conversion today?
The first part of this article presented the historical, political and religious framework in which the conversion of Russia must be considered.
Russia and the Message of Fatima
On his March 12 blog, Vaticanist Aldo Maria Valli quotes American analyst John Horvat who wonders if Russians agree with Fatima's message. For him, “Starting with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, an erroneous view began to circulate among Catholics in the West that this was the conversion of Russia foreseen by Our Lady.”
“The conversion narrative grew stronger under Vladimir Putin. It refers to the fall of Communism and subsequent attempts to reestablish some semblance of order in the land parched by seven decades of atheist rule. Some see the post-Cold War increase in religious profession (but not practice) as a kind of conversion in progress.”
“Some Catholics are only too ready to shoehorn these efforts into the Fatima message. No matter how small, they interpret any gesture as part of the conversion process. Moreover, they are happy to see the Russian Orthodox, not the Catholic Church, as God's instrument in this conversion. As if it makes no difference.”
And to recall: “The conversion-in-progress Russia seems just as prone to decadence as other European countries.”
“A survey of Eastern European nations, for example, shows that Catholics are much more likely than Russia’s Orthodox to attend weekly services (42% in Poland versus 7% in Russia), fast during holy times (72% in Croatia versus 27% in Russia) or engage in daily prayer (44% in Croatia versus 18% in Russia).
The United Nation’s data reveals that Russia has the highest per capita abortion rate in the world – almost triple the American rate. Russia continues to have one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world. Other social indicators like suicide rates and levels of prostitution are also extremely high.”
Furthermore, “Russian Orthodox officials tend to see the Fatima apparitions as a Catholic fabrication to encroach on what they claim is exclusively Orthodox canonical territory and area of influence.”
“Seen in light of the Great Schism of 1054, when the Eastern Church left Rome, the message of Fatima is rejected. The Orthodox have long persecuted Catholics in Russia and inhibited the practice of the True Faith.”
“Instead of embracing the Fatima Message as a heaven-sent aid to encourage Russians in this time of great spiritual need, the Russian Orthodox Church looks upon it with resentment. It claims that Russia does not need conversion since it has been Christian for over a thousand years.”
“There is no need for consecration since the Russian people already recognize Our Lady as the Mother of God, the Theotokos. In short, the Russian Orthodox Church excludes itself from the Fatima Message because its leaders do not believe it comes from heaven.”