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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The following interview was sent to LifeSiteNews by the office of His Eminence Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, the Penitentiary Major, i.e. the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican dicastery tasked with absolutions, indulgences, and other aspects of ecclesiastical pardon. The interview has been translated from the original Italian into English.

Your Eminence, this Lent, the penitential liturgy presided over by our Holy Father Pope Francis is scheduled for March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. How do these two things fit together?

Cdl. Piacenza: The penitential liturgy has been a Lenten custom since the end of the 2014 Course on the Internal forum, a course organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary and which is now in its thirty-second edition, with growing attendance every year. This year, we’ve already reached 800 participants, including remote participants. It is a service offered to the whole Church, and above all to young priests, and to seminarians who are about to be ordained. The fact that the penitential liturgy happens to coincide with the Solemnity of the Annunciation this year, on March 25, is pure providence, inviting us to reflect on the extraordinary figure of Mary, who is the Mother of mercy, because she is the Mother of the Savior.

The Annunciation calls to our minds the great mystery of the Archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary the conception of the Eternal Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit in the virginal womb of a creature destined for this by God through her preservation from sin.

Mary is herself a luminous sign of mercy for all of humanity, a sign that the Father continually manifests to us and offers us.

The whole world has been made aware that the Pope will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Is such a gesture still relevant in 2022?

Cdl. Piacenza: As shown by the dramatic circumstances of current events, not only does this gesture retain all of its relevance today, but it has now even become a matter of urgency.

After all, peace is intimately linked to mercy. The inner peace, the peace of the heart, the peace of the conscience of each person depends on divine mercy, on the awareness that one’s iniquities and sins can be solved only in the loving embrace of the Father; the same is true of a peace understood in a broader sense.

There can be no peace without justice, and there can be no peace without mercy!

Therefore, the link between peace and mercy is deeply rooted in the will of God, which must increasingly become the will of men. Learning to be merciful to one another, following the example of the merciful Father, is also the prerequisite for peace among nations.

At Fátima, Our Lady herself asked, through Sister Lucy, for the consecration of Russia to her, to mitigate the tragedies of the 20th century.

This request is always relevant, so much so that the Pope has arranged for the same consecration to take place simultaneously in Fátima, Portugal.

There have been various “consecrations” in the past decades, which have been evaluated in various ways by the Servant of God Sister Lucy of Fátima and by a number of commentators. How do you explain these differences?

Cdl. Piacenza: Popes Pius XII and John Paul II consecrated Russia and the peoples of the world to the Immaculate of Heart of Mary, according to the understanding that was given to them at the time and based on opportunity and circumstances. Later, Benedict XVI in his homily on the great esplanade at the shrine of Fátima, on May 13, 2010, said that “we would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.”

The Popes have wanted the best for the Church and for humanity, avoiding unforeseeable and possibly even dangerous consequences, with gestures that would likely not have been adequately understood.

I think that, beyond the specific form of a gesture, Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary look at the substance, the truth of the gesture and its spirit.  For our part, as we progress on our journey, every act of consecration is – and must be – a radical call to personal, ecclesial, and social conversion.

Is there, therefore, a certain uniqueness to Fátima, compared to other Marian apparitions, even those that are recognized by the Church?

Cdl. Piacenza: Fátima certainly has its own specificity, in that it presents itself as a prophetic apparition, which enters deeply into historical events and points to conversion as an instrument of salvation and peace. Always keeping in mind that what God wants to reveal to us, through the presence and the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is only and always for the conversion and peace of humanity.

Certainly, Fátima is also characterized by this prophetic aspect, which is something that isn’t highlighted so clearly in other apparitions.

Will the Pope’s gesture have any effect on the serious international tensions brought about by the war in Ukraine?

Cdl. Piacenza: I am certain of this. Perhaps we will not be given immediately the gift of measuring what God will work through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thanks to this gesture. It is not for us men to measure the power of Marian intercession with Divine Mercy, which from a perspective of historical theology, has power over all things. A consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary certainly does not remove man from his responsibilities and from using his freedom in accordance with truth and goodness. Let us remember that prayer, if done properly, has an enormous power, such that enables us to say,  with Saint Bernard, that the intercession of the Mother of God bears the characteristics of “supplicating omnipotence.”

The consecration will have its own efficacy which, if not measurable by purely human criteria, may still change the course of history, according to the assurance that, as the Blessed Virgin Mary herself promised, her Immaculate Heart will triumph.

In the end it will triumph! And it will be the triumph of divine mercy.