Bishop James T. Schuerman (from left), Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines recite the act of consecration on Friday, March 25, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The prayer service consecrated Ukraine and Russia, and all of humanity, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (Photos by David Bernacchi)

For a moment, the world stopped to pray.

Catholics around the world joined together to pray for peace amidst the death and destruction of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On the Feast of the Annunciation, Friday, March 25, bishops from around the world joined Pope Francis to consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Feast of the Annunciation is when the Angel Gabriel revealed God’s plan to Mary, so it was fitting that she took a prominent place in the hearts and minds of Christians world-wide.

Locally, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki led a powerful prayer service in front of a nearly packed Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, saying, “Obedience opens the door to love.” The livestream of the prayer service from the Cathedral had more than 1,700 viewers, and estimates had more than 500 people in-person for the prayer service.

“Every night, we turn on television and see the devastation of war,” Archbishop Listecki said. “One of the things modern technology has done is it has brought to mind the devastation and inhumanity that’s caused by conflict. It also gives us a sense of what our responsibility should be. I, like many of you, say we’re helpless. What can we do? I think our Universal Shepherd rightly said, ‘What we can do is pray and trust ourselves to the power of God.’ We are people of life and when that life is threatened, it is our responsibility to respond by offering our witness.”

The second verse of the introductory song (“O God of Every Nation”) laid out perfectly what was at stake, beginning, “Keep bright in us the vision of days when wars shall cease,” and concluding with, “And Christ shall rule victorious over all the world’s domain.”

The archbishop said that when calling upon God’s mercy and love, we must acknowledge our own sinfulness — the things that separate us from God.

“They have eliminated God from the conversation, from understanding,” Archbishop Listecki said.

The act of consecrating to the Immaculate Heart of Mary stems from the vision in Fatima, Portugal, when Mary revealed her three secrets to the three young children.

With the consecration prayers going on simultaneously throughout the world, Pope Francis said consecration of Ukraine, Russia and the world to Mary “is no magic formula but a spiritual act. It is an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother.”

Archbishop Listecki said it is appropriate that we are invoking peace with contrite hearts and trusting God’s loving mercy, and that we are turning our hearts to the Lord and trusting that he knows our every need.

“It is wonderful to think that all throughout the world there are churches, cathedrals, basilicas, coming together in singularity of prayer, hoping that the sense of humanity that has been given to us will be purged from sin and turned toward God,” Archbishop Listecki said. “We live in extraordinary times. Humanity has instruments of unprecedented power. We can turn this world into a garden or reduce it to a mere pile of rubble. As the war in Ukraine enters its fourth week, immense suffering has come upon its people, threatening world peace.”

Bishops around the world, including Archbishop Listecki and auxiliary bishops Jeffrey R. Haines and James T. Schuerman, recited the 1,000-word consecration prayer prepared by Pope Francis. The pope led a prayer service at the Vatican, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The closing lines of the prayer summed things up perfectly: “You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.”

The full text of the Act of Consecration can be found here.