The war in Ukraine has catapulted the Fatima Message into the center of discussions.
The Mother of God’s mysterious 1917 references to Russia and its errors are the backdrop to the death toll and destruction in Ukraine: “If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she 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, and several nations will be annihilated.”
Our Lady also spoke of Russia’s eventual conversion after the nation’s consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
Many have rightly claimed that the errors of Russia were those of Communism. Russia did indeed spread them throughout the world from 1917 onward.
A Controversial Conversion Spin
Starting with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, however, 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 waned stronger under Vladimir Putin.
The conversion narrative refers to the fall of Communism and the subsequent attempts to re-establish 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.
All these points are the object of discussion among those in the West who support what might be called Fatima’s Russian conversion narrative. The discussion often includes a counter-narrative, which states that the decadent and morally corrupt Western nations also need conversion, perhaps more than Russia.
Stretching the Narrative
The problem with the Russian conversion narrative is it must take place inside the Fatima Message. The events must correspond with reality if the narrative is to be believed. There is no room for variations using distorted facts.
Any situation can be adapted to a narrative as long as it resembles the general plot. However, a narrative can only be stretched so far. When key elements don’t fit, the whole structure falls.
That is the case with the Russian conversion narrative. It stretches things too far, and the facts don’t match the script.
The conversion-in-progress Russia seems just as prone to decadence as other European countries. A survey of Eastern European nations, for example, show that Catholics are much more likely than Russia’s Orthodox to attend weekly services (42% in Poland vs. 7 % Russia), fast during holy times ( 72% in Croatia vs. 27% in Russia) or engage in daily prayer (44% in Croatia vs. 18% in Russia). The United Nation’s data reveals 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 prostitution levels are also extremely high.
An Undesired Conversion
However, the fact that works most against the conversion narrative is that most Russians identify with the Russian Orthodox Church, not the Roman Catholic Church. They reject the Fatima narrative because it is Catholic. The Russian conversion narrative stumbles over the fact that Russians do not want to be converted by Fatima.
That is not to say the Russians did not desire to be free from the Soviet yoke. It only means that the Russians do not see this liberation coming from Our Lady of Fatima. They tragically do not frame the changes happening in Russia as part of a universal triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Russian conversion narrative runs into more trouble. 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 the light of the Great Schism of 1054, when the Eastern Church left Rome, the Fatima message 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 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 recognized Our Lady as the Mother of God, the Theotokos.
In short, the Russian Orthodox Church excludes itself from the Fatima Message because its officials do not believe it comes from heaven.
The Greatest Support Rejected
Thus, there is a great ominous silence about Fatima over the vast expanses of Russia. Russian Church and civil officials do not call upon this most powerful supernatural ally who has promised them deliverance from modern evils. As a result, Russia has not converted and languishes in the moral corruption and sin that dominate the world.
Neither has the West converted. It also failed to heed the Fatima Message when it stood to gain so much from it. Had the Fatima Message not been rejected, Our Lady’s universal call for prayer, penance and amendment of life would have resulted in wonders that would have transformed the world.
A Narrative That Is Not Over
The Fatima Message is still timely. However, for it to make sense, one must take a truly balanced position by admitting that both the East and the West have not heeded the Fatima message. The whole world needs conversion as error still dominates everywhere. Both East and West have adopted an anything but Fatima position by which they embrace a sinful and modern world. Because Our Lady’s Message was not heeded, both East and West are headed into an unprecedented chastisement in the history of the world.
This is not the time to be pointing fingers at each other but beating chests in repentance. Now more than ever, the world needs Fatima. It needs repentance. Its only surviving hope is Mary.