On Praying for Ukraine, and Russia, and Any Other Nation for That Matter

Two days ago, I made a social media posting that engendered widely divergent responses. The posting linked to a page we have had on this site since 2007 promoting indulgenced Catholic prayers for the conversion of Russia. The major reaction was “likes,” “shares,” and such, but there were many people attacking my posting from different angles, generally summarized as:

  • Orthodox who were offended at the idea of praying for the conversion of an historically Orthodox nation to Catholicism. (In her historical conversion to Christianity in 988, Russia was, in fact, Catholic.)
  • Catholics who believed that Russia was better than the USA, Europe, or the rest of the Western nations, and who therefore said that we should pray for our own conversion and not theirs (as if one only prays for nations only if they register low enough on some sort of “badness” metric!). Mixed in with this category are those who were defending Vladimir Putin in the current events in Ukraine. Whatever one thinks of those events, the same logic applies. We don’t pray for a nation simply because we disagree with its foreign policy. That would be very reductionist, indeed!
  • Catholics who doubted the messages of Our Lady of Fatima about the consecration and conversion of Russia.

Where to begin?

First, this is not an apologetical article on the necessity of Russia’s conversion to Catholicism, nor it is an historical study of the Catholic roots of Russia. Regarding the apologetics, I recommend the reader consult The Church of History, St. Peter and Church Unity, Soloviev’s Meditation on the Papacy, Some Thoughts on the Epiclesis in the Divine Liturgy, Trinitarian Processions, and What’s the Filioque? to name a few pieces on this site. As for the history I’ve already linked above to Gary Potter’s fine historical piece. All that said, I understand that Russian Orthodox (or any Orthodox) people would be offended at the suggestion that an Orthodox people ought to embrace Catholic unity. It is to be expected, and it is an indication that they are not in communion with the Holy See of Saint Peter. That is precisely the situation we wish to remedy by our prayer, and it is what we hope will be remedied by the collegial consecration of Russia to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart by the Pope and the world’s bishops. (No, it is not yet been done as Our Lady Requested.)

As for the second point, regarding Russia’s being better off than the USA and the West in general, it is not without foundation. But even if I believed that to be the case 100% and absolutely, I would still want Russia to be a Catholic nation. This is because schism is objectively a sin against charity by tearing at the unity of the Church. As Pope Pius XI taught in Mortalium Animos:

The unity of Christians cannot be otherwise obtained than by securing the return of the separated to the one true Church of Christ [which he makes abundantly clear is the Catholic Church] from which they once unhappily withdrew. To the one true Church of Christ, We say, that stands forth before all, and that by the will of its Founder will remain forever the same as when He Himself established it for the salvation of all mankind.

Praying for Russia’s conversion does not mean we hate Russia, but, rather, that we wish her to be Catholic. That is the very opposite of hate; it is charity.

But should we not also pray for Ukraine? YES! Here, by the way, is a summary of the religioius demographics of Ukraine, courtesy of our friend, Joe Doyle:

Ukraine is one of the most Christian countries in the world, with over 85% of its people professing Christian beliefs—a percentage higher than that of the United States. More than two thirds of Ukrainians belong to various branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The second largest religious group are Catholics, who comprise more than 11% of the country. [Exactly 11.32% according to Joe’s source, which is the Association of Religious Data Archives.]

Ukraine has the largest Catholic minority of any Eastern Orthodox nation. While only two percent of Ukrainians (mostly Poles) belong to the Latin Rite Church, more than nine percent of Ukrainians belong to the Byzantine Rite, Greek Catholic Church, which has been united with Rome since the Union of Brest in 1596.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the twenty three Eastern Rite, or Uniate Churches, who are in communion with the Apostolic See, making it the second largest church in Catholicism.

There is, also, an Oriental Orthodox minority, as Ukraine is home to the world’s fifth largest community of the Armenian diaspora. Another three percent of the population is Protestant.

Like Russia, Ukraine is a majority Orthodox nation. Unlike Russia, it has a sizable Catholic minority. Along with praying for the end of armed conflict between the nations, we ought also to pray for true peace and Catholic unity for both nations.

On August 29, 1931, Our Lord spoke to Sister Lucy and said something about praying for Russia and other nations. In Sister Lucy’s words:

As I was asking God for the conversion of Russia, Spain and Portugal, it seemed to me that His Divine Majesty said to me: ‘You console Me very much by asking me for the conversion of those poor nations. Ask it also of my Mother frequently, saying: Sweet Heart of Mary, be the salvation of Russia, Spain, Portugal, Europe and the whole world. At other times say: By your pure and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, obtain for me the conversion of Russia, Spain, Portugal, Europe and the entire world. Make it known to my ministers that if they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of my request, they will follow him into misfortune. It will never be too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.’

Evidently, praying for Russia and for Sister Lucy’s own homeland (Portugal) and her then adopted home (Spain) was pleasing to Our Lord, as was praying for the mother continent of Western Christendom (Europe) and the whole world. We ought to pray for them all, too, specifically naming (I would suggest) Ukraine, the United States (largely responsible, by the way, for destabilizing Ukraine for many years), and whatever the reader’s own homeland is. Such is obviously pleasing to God.

But we ought to pray for them all to receive the true faith! Otherwise, our prayers are no better than some mere natural philanthropy, or, worse, they are exercises in indifferentism, which is a condemned heresy.

When praying for Ukraine, it would be good to invoke Saint Josaphat Kuncewicz (1582-1623), the Ukrainian monk-archbishop, who sealed the above-mentioned Union of Brest with his blood.