FATIMA IN RUSSIA
KRZYSZTOF TADEJ: Recently in Kaliningrad an unusual event has taken place….
FR. MONS. JERZY STECKIEWICZ: Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, the metropolitan of the archdiocese of Our Lady in Moscow, decided that in Kaliningrad there would be a sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima. On 24 September 2017, there was a solemn inauguration of the sanctuary with participation of a lot of believers, priests. It was also attended by representatives of other religions. During the ceremony we read acts of devotion of this land to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I think that it was a historic day for the Catholic Church in Russia. After all, it had appeared as the first one and as for now, it is the only sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Russia.
There are appearing a lot of sanctuaries in the world. Why is it such an important event? We remember the apparitions in Fatima, which took place 100 years ago. Our Lady passed over mysteries to children. In one of them she said: ‘If my requests are fulfilled, Russia will become converted and there will be peace. If not, it will spread its mistakes all over the world, causing wars and persecutions of the holy Church. Good people will be tormented, the Holy Father will have to suffer a lot, various nations will be annihilated. Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will devote Russia to me, which will become converted and there will be peace in the world’. The appearing of the sanctuary should be perceived in the context of the words about ‘conversion of Russia’. When we look at the last years, we see that in Russia, since 1991 there has been renewal of religious life. The Orthodox Church has renewed in an excellent way and is still developing, containing more and more believers. One of the renewal signs among the Catholics there is appearing of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima.
Did the plans of building the sanctuary appear in 1992?
It can be said so, because the authorities allowed us to put up a few containers in the city centre. We were running pastoral ministry in them. In the containers there appeared, among the others: a parish office, a library, Caritas office and a provisory chapel. We called that chapel the chapel of Our Lady of Fatima.
I must admit that the containers were very impressive. There were, for example, flats for priests in them. They were very small, as there was a space only for a bed in them. Another surprising thing was the sight of a refectory. In the middle a tree was growing….
Indeed conditions were difficult. We had a small area and we had to adjust the containers to that place. In the room where the tree was, not only did we eat meals – there were, first of all, religion classes there, as well as classes for fiancés and people getting prepared for the Baptism and Confirmation sacraments.
Another important event favourable to building the sanctuary took place in 1996. At that time there was a peregrination of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima all over Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia. Before it started, I had received a duty of transporting the statue from Portugal. Before I received it, s. Łucja, the only alive witness of the apparitions, said that she wanted to pray by the statue. I went to Coimbra in Portugal. And I was a witness of an unusual meeting of s. Łucja with cardinal Jospeh Ratzinger there, as well as with archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz and bishops: Joseph Werther and Jan Paweł Lenga.
What did s. Łucja say then?
She was happy that the statue was being transported to Russia and other countries in this part of the world. She said that conversions of Russia could not be treated as conversion into Catholicism. ‘It will be conversion into Christianity’ - she emphasized.
Two years after the peregrination of the statue, in 1998 we began to build the church and the chapel in Kaliningrad. The chapel was built as first and we called it the chapel of Our Lady of Fatima sanctified by John Paul II during his visit in Zakopane in Krzeptówki. And now, according to the decision of archbishop Pezzi, the sanctuary was built in this place.
One of the duties of people focused on the sanctuary there will be helping families solve their problems.
It is also related to s. Łucja, who addressed her letter to an Italian cardinal Carlo Caffarry, writing that in the present world ‘the most severe fight is for the family’. It is so in Russia. A few years ago in Kaliningrad we organized a conference concerning families. It was attended, among the others, by Polish bishop Stanisław Stefanek. One of women participating in the meeting said to him: ‘I was a director of the Centre Help to Families for 30 years. My main duty was sending women to places where abortion was done. But after the conference I looked at the family in a completely different way’. Another woman, referring to the statement of bishop Stefanek about a person who had done 18 abortions, said that she knew a woman who had done even 40 abortions. Those were shocking testimonies which showed what problems are in contemporary families. Therefore, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima is to deal with helping families in difficult situations.
How many Catholics are there in the district of Kaliningrad? How many parishes are they in?
I always say: ‘more and more!’. We do not have exact statistics. The Sunday Holy Mass is attended by about 300 – 400 believers and during Easter and Christmas – about a thousand.
As for the amount of parishes, at present there are 20 of them. In the whole district of Kaliningrad there are 21 priests and 12 nuns – very few in relation to believers’ needs. Therefore on every occasion I say that this region of Russia bordering with Poland is waiting for priests.