By Ononye VC
As the entire world expressed outrage over Russia’s invasion in Ukraine,head of Catholic church worldwide,His Holiness Pope Francis has laid the fates of both countries at the feet of Mary,mother of Jesus Christ in the hope that peace would finally return in Ukaraine where citizens have fled the country.The Pope was joined in the ceremony of consecrating both countries by Catholic bishops across the globe simultaneously.In Onitsha,the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha Most Rev Valerian Okeke offered the Consecration prayers at the Basilica Square Onitsha where members of the clergy,the lay faithful and the religious gathered in solidarity.While praying at the Vatican,Pope Francis committed Russia and Ukraine into the hands of Mary saying,”Mother of God and our mother,to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves,the church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine”on March 25 thus pronouncing the Act of Consecration after leading a Lenten penance service in St Peter’s Basilica.Pope Francis made the sign of the cross in front of a Marian statue after consecrating the world and, in particular, Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.Praying before a statue of Mary that was loaned by the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at San Vittoriano on the outskirts of Rome, the pope pleaded with Mary to “accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end, and peace spread throughout the world.”Sitting in front of the statue, which was placed before the steps of the main altar on a red platform and adorned with white roses, the pope proclaimed the act of consecration. During the prayer, the pope paused at several moments to gaze at the statue of Mary before continuing to recite the prayer.“To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world,” he prayed.After the consecration, the pope, accompanied by a young boy and girl, placed a bouquet of white roses at the feet of the statue. He then remained for a few moments, with eyes closed and head bowed in silent prayer, before stepping away.According to the Vatican, an estimated 3,500 people filled St. Peter’s Basilica, while 2,000 people watched on video screens from St. Peter’s Square. Police asked pilgrims who entered St. Peter’s Basilica carrying or wearing Ukrainian flags to put them away, since the event was a prayer service.Among those present at the liturgy were Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See. The consecration, he tweeted March 25, is “another attempt (by the pope) to defend Ukraine from the devil’s war,” referring to Russia’s attacks on the country.Joe Donnelly, who soon will present his credentials to the pope as the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, also attended the service.The Vatican announced March 18 that Pope Francis also asked bishops around the world to join him in consecrating Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.