02/15/2005, 00.00
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Our Lady of Fatima, 'counterrevolutionary' and 'ecumenical'

In Vietnam and Russia, countries marked by Communist atheism, the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima sustains the hopes of the faithful.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is live and well in Vietnam and Russia. In both countries there are shrines dedicated to her. And in both countries, the past as well as the present are marked by Communist atheism whose end the Virgin predicted when She appeared to the little young shepherds in Portugal in 1917.

In Vietnam there is a "Fatima Centre" in Binh Trieu, 30 km from Saigon; in Russia, the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is in Saint Petersburg.

The Catholic Church and Vietnamese Catholics have become very devoted to Our Lady of Fatima for two reasons: the similarity of the message of Our Lady of Fatima to that given by the Virgin in La Vang, in the late 18th century during the anti-Christian persecutions of King Canh 'Minh. Both announced "consolation in the middle of persecutions through prayers, especially the Rosary.

With the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the reunification of Vietnam under a Communist regime, Vietnamese Catholics felt very close to Our Lady of Fatima's prophecy about the "end of communism". For this reason, the Communist regime in Hanoi has always considered Her 'counterrevolutionary'.

In Bin Trieu about 300 faithful gather every Saturday. Large crowds of pilgrims arrive on the first Saturday and on the 13th of every month to honour the first apparition in Fatima (May 13). In every one of Vietnam's 25 dioceses there is at least one church dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.

In Russia the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is found in Saint Petersburg in a place that speaks to Russia's Communist past and to the brotherhood between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Consecrated on October 11, 1998, the shrine is not far from the Cathedral of Kazan, an important Orthodox place of worship that under Soviet rule was the Museum of Atheism.

The Catholic shrine is also not too far from another emblematic building: the Winter Palace. It was here that the Bolshevik revolution was launched on November 7, 1917. and it was here that the Virgin appeared in the same year from May till October.

In Her messages, Our Lady foresaw the immense damage that would come from Russia should it move away from the Christian faith and accept Communist atheism.

The Virgin had told the little shepherds of Fatima that if humanity did not accept her demands, Russia would spread "its errors around the world causing wars and instigating persecutions against the Church".

"The Good shall be martyred," Our Lady said, "and the Holy Father shall have to suffer, and many nations shall be destroyed".

The Virgin's message ended on a hopeful note though. She said that "if my demands are accepted, Russia shall convert and [humanity] shall have peace". (MA-LF)

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