Some Reflections on “Russia Will Be Converted”

Transcript:

Hi everyone! I wanted to make this little video to address the meaning of Our Lady’s words, “Russia will be converted.”[1] Some people believe that Our Lady meant Russia would have a religious conversion and become Catholic (and, specifically, join the Latin Church). Other people, on the contrary, maintain that it doesn’t mean a religious conversion to the Catholic Faith.

For my part, I’d like to talk about this debate and present some information for your consideration. It seems best to provide some context, so I’ll do so now.

The prophecy of “Russia will be converted” came during Our Lady’s apparition on July 13, 1917. They comprise the second part of the famous Secret of Fátima. Here, Our Lady said:

You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius Xl. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted [a Rússia se converterá], 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, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted [que se converterá], and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc…[2]

There are these two phrases: “Russia will be converted” and “she will be converted.” Note how Our Lady speaks in the future tense when she says “I shall come to ask…etc.” for the consecration of Russia by the Holy Father to her Immaculate Heart. This request took place on June 13, 1929 in Tuy, Spain. Our Lady said to Sr. Lúcia:

The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means [prometendo salvá-la por este meio]. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.[3]

Here, we note that Our Lady does not use the word “will convert” (converterá). Rather, she says that God promises to save Russia (salvá-la).

With these things in mind, what did Our Lady mean by “Russia will be converted?”

If we interpret Our Lady’s words along the lines of a religious conversion—that Russia would become Catholic—I have some doubts about this interpretation.

The first doubt is that, to the best of my knowledge, nowhere in the revelations at Fátima is Eastern Orthodoxy the focus of Our Lady. Rather, her focus is upon the salvation of souls and the establishing in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Her predictions about what would happen (good or bad) if her requests are not heeded all revolve around these things.

In order to prevent the bad things from happening, Our Lady says that if her requests are heeded, Russia will be converted. Converted from what? Russian Orthodoxy?

In her discourse, Our Lady said nothing about Russian Orthodoxy. Why then would we suddenly read it into Our Lady’s discourse when there is no prior mention of it? Doing so does not seem to make much sense, at least to my mind and way of thinking.

A second doubt about this interpretation is the sheer practicality of it. Russian Orthodoxy has existed for centuries. There are many deep-seated feelings, opinions and beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Church and/or its members. Among these matters are the theological debates and objections of the Russian Orthodox to Catholicism. To expect a wholesale conversion of a country to Catholicism against this background is simply impractical.

A third doubt is related to the second, but closely associated. Russian life and culture have its own history and tradition. Russians are their own people and have immense pride in their heritage. For what reason would they suddenly abandon that heritage?

I can hear some people answer in response, “That’s part of the miracle of the consecration!” God usually doesn’t work against the identity of a people. Not even the events with St. Juan Diego and the famous tilma offer a contradictory example. The fact is, there were some very notable and supporting cultural elements in Central America that provided fertile ground for Guadalupe to be accepted as rapidly as it was and have such massive conversions. In fact, a book on this very subject is forthcoming by some wonderful people in California, so stay tuned.

If Our Lady had intended a religious conversion with her words “Russia will be converted,” I think that there is a more likely scenario that would have played out.

Were a religious conversion to take place in the present situation with Russia, it is reasonable to speculate that theological difficulties between the Roman and Russian Churches would be addressed and answered to everyone’s satisfaction. Once those difficulties were answered, and accepted by all, there would be no reason for communion and unity between the two Churches to be delayed.

Thus, if Our Lady intended a religious conversion, I don’t believe that Russians would suddenly become Catholic. The more likely case is that the two Churches would be at peace with one another. If Rome forced Russian Orthodox Christians to become Roman Catholic as a conditio sine qua non for this peace, it would backfire. Badly. Of that, I have little doubt.

That said, because Russian Orthodoxy is nowhere mentioned by Our Lady, I don’t think that even this scenario was what she intended.

I have further doubts based upon what Our Lady said at Tuy in 1929. The consecration of Russia and the communion of reparation were promised to “save” Russia. Save Russia from what, Russian Orthodoxy? If that is the correct interpretation, why would Our Lady promise to save the Russian people now, in 1929, when Russian Orthodoxy had been around for centuries already?

No, something doesn’t add up with the religious conversion interpretation as outlined above.

What, then, did Our Lady intend? Interestingly, a little-known book from Sr. Lúcia offers us some insights into this question.

She wrote a book in Portuguese called Como vejo a mensagem, which in English means “How I see the Message.”[4] An English translation of this book exists.[5] This book was written years after the events of 1917 and 1929 and contains Sr. Lúcia’s own reflections upon Our Lady’s message.

On page 53 of the English translation, we see Sr. Lúcia reflecting upon Our Lady’s words in the second part of the Secret that we saw earlier. Sr. Lucia doesn’t elaborate too much on the words Russia “will be converted.” She restricts herself to the very short sentence, “The word ‘converted’ which comes from the word ‘conversion’ means a change [mudança] from bad to good….”

What is the “change from bad to good” being referenced? I don’t think it was Russian Orthodoxy, again, because nowhere is this subject broached by Our Lady. What is, however, stated by Our Lady is the fact that Russia would spread errors throughout the world.

We know that those errors are founded upon atheism and Communism. These are not specified by name by Our Lady, but errors in general were specified, and all the horrific events that would attend to them—a significant one being the “wars provoked throughout the world.” It is here that Sr. Lúcia, in Como vejo a mensagem, makes a very poignant observation about events in the 1980s.

Speaking about the “great powers” of the world that were “hostile to one another,” she wrote about a nuclear war “which would destroy the world, if not entirely, to a considerable extent….”[6]

Sr. Lúcia then asks some questions:

  1. What chances of survival would there be for the part [of humanity] that would be left?
  2. Who would be capable removing those arrogant men, entrenched in their plans and schemes for war, in their violent ideas, atheistic, enslaving and domineering ideologies, believing themselves the lords of the whole world, to change [cambiar] all this into the exact opposite?
  3. To ask for a meeting in order to exchange a sign of peace?
  4. To change [mudar] their plans for war into plans for peace?
  5. From aggressive and violent injustices to schemes for aid and assistance, recognizing the rights of the human person, abolishing slavery, etc?
  6. Who, other than God, was capable of working on these intelligences, on these wills, in these consciences, in such a way as to bring them to such a change [câmbio], without fear, without dreading uprisings on the part of their own people and those of others?

In her questions, we see the word “change” (cambiar/câmbio) twice. It is not the same word that Sr. Lúcia used earlier, mudança, but they are synonyms.[7] The point is the same: only the power of God could compel powerful men to change from bad to good.

From context, it is impossible to interpret Sr. Lúcia to be speaking about powerful men changing from Russian Orthodoxy to Catholicism. It simply is not the obvious literal sense of this passage. Rather, it seems to me very clear that Sr. Lúcia interpreted Our Lady’s words that “Russia will be converted” in reference to Russia giving up the things specified in Sr. Lúcia’s second question (war, violent ideas, atheistic, enslaving and domineering ideologies, etc).

Some Catholics may have a very hard time accepting this interpretation. From the standpoint of Catholic theology and doctrine, the Russian Orthodox Church, strictly speaking and with all due respect, is in a state of schism. The problem, however, is whether this thought was the focus of Our Lady’s discourse. Some would ask, why wouldn’t Our Lady include the “error” (from the Catholic viewpoint) of Russian Orthodoxy when speaking of the “errors of Russia”?

To that question, I would ask another one: was Russian Orthodoxy responsible throughout its history for one of the worst threats to the Faith as manifested in the twentieth century? Or, was RO a tool used by evil and nefarious men in their schemes to make this threat? If the first is the correct way to look at the matter, then why would Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, focus upon the means and not the problem itself?

For the purposes of this video, I’ll leave these questions open for later discussion. I would like to offer another interesting bit of information for your consideration here.

In 2016, the Orthodox theologian Fr. Josiah Trenham was giving a talk at St. Barnabas Orthodox Church in Costa Mesa, California. A video of this talk is available on YouTube. For reasons of copyright, I will link to the video in the description. For the present video, I think it sufficient to recount the simple facts.

At the 28:39 mark of the video, Fr. Trenham recounts that he is acquainted with the Duke of Bragança, Dom Duarte Pio. At some point, they were at a dinner together, and Fr. Trenham asked Dom Duarte Pio about the words “Russia will be converted.” He asked, “Forgive me…if the Virgin Mary…came and appeared…do you really think that’s what she meant because we Orthodox think that’s utter total nonsense.”

According to Fr. Trenham, Dom Duarte Pio responded as follows, “Oh, Father, I know something about this. I am personally acquainted with [Sr. Lúcia] and I have corresponded with her on many occasions…. I wrote her a letter and I said, ‘Did the Virgin Mary, in your understanding, mean that Russia would become Roman Catholic or that Russia would return to her Orthodox Christianity?”

Fr. Trenham continued the story to include the answer. According to him, Dom Duarte claimed that Sr. Lúcia wrote him back saying, “It’s my understanding that the Virgin Mary meant that Russia would return to its Orthodox Christianity.” Fr. Trenham then remarked, “I asked him if he was going to publish the letter…. It’d be very, very nice if he would, and I am not going to forget that I heard that story at all.”

Fr. Trenham’s last point about publishing the letter would be a very welcome development from the perspective of ongoing scholarship. The cause of Sr. Lúcia’s beatification, however, is presently advancing in Rome. The publication of new letters might cause some disruption to that process.

And so, the discussions and debates will continue. For my part, I am hoping that this little video will be of help to interested persons who have these things on their minds. Thank you for watching and God bless you.


[1] This is a separate question than the one about if and when the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart took place in 1984. I will not address this question in the present video.

[2] Fr. Louis Kondor (edit.), Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words 16ed (Fátima: Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, 2007), 178-179.

[3] Ibid., 198.

[4] Irmã Maria Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado, Como vejo a mensagem, 2ed (Fátima, Portugal: Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, 2007), 53-54.

[5] Sister Mary Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart, How I see the Message (Fátima, Portugal: Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, 2006).

[6] Here, I think the adage “pay no attention to a man’s subjects, but rather to his predicates” applies. Sr. Lúcia does not state prophetically that a nuclear war was going to happen. Instead, she talks about its distinct possibility. That creates a noticeable impression upon the average reader as to just how serious of a situation we were in during the 1980s.

[7] In question four, Sr. Lúcia wrote, A mudar (to change).