Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Ukraine 2022: Fatima, Austria’s neutrality, prayer and fasting

By Robert G. Marshall ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 09, 2022

The Cold War “neutral” status of Austria effected by a 1955 treaty should offer hope that the war between Ukraine and Russia could similarly be resolved.

In 1938, before World War II began, Nazi Germany had fully annexed Austria, and later forced Austrian troops to fight beside Germans. At the war’s end in 1945, Austria and Germany were occupied by armies of the four victorious governments with the administrators of the victors running everything.

However, on May 15, 1955, representatives of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the United States, and France signed a treaty providing for the withdrawal of all military occupation forces from WWII, provided that Austria would maintain neutrality, and not side militarily with either the Western NATO alliance, or Soviet Bloc countries. According to a US State Department archives note:

The Austrian State Treaty was the only treaty signed by both the Soviet Union and United States in the decade after the 1947 Paris Peace Treaties, and it marked the only Cold War era withdrawal by the Soviet Union from a territory it occupied.… As promised, the newly-independent nation declared and maintained its neutrality for the remainder of the Cold War.

This happened even though President “Eisenhower was against neutrality on principle…and hopeful that Austrian neutrality could still be prevented.” Eisenhower’s opposition to Austrian neutrality was matched by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyachesla Molotov, “who shortly before his death in 1986 still bewailed Moscow’s withdrawal from Austria and Soviet inability to ‘democratize’ Austria.”

Why did the Soviets withdraw? Prayer

Historian Seigfreid Beer writes, “The question as to why the Soviets finally decided to abandon their military presence in eastern Austria in the spring of 1955 and to agree to a negotiated withdrawal has preoccupied historians ever since.” From the end of WWII until 1955, efforts to regain self-rule for Austrians were not lacking. There were more than 260 peace conferences in the effort to remove the Soviets from power. But nothing changed in Austria. It must be remembered that a spontaneous uprising in Hungary was viciously crushed by Soviet tanks and troops on November 4, 1956. Thousands were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country.

How did Austria succeed when armed Hungarians failed? Conventional answers do not explain radical historical anomalies.

America’s Founders prayed for the assistance of Divine Providence in the founding of America. The words of the last sentence in the Declaration of Independence begin with, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence....” More importantly, the Old Testament presents page after page of God’s entrance into history pursuant to the petitionary prayers of His people.

According to Fr. Raymond J. DeSouza, Pope John Paul read history in, “a Providential way, from the improbable survival of the Czestochowa shrine against Swedish invaders in 1655 to the ‘Miracle of the Vistula’ in 1920, when a newly independent Poland defeated the Soviet Red Army.” This included the protection of Pope John Paul’s own life. NBC notes that Pope John Paul II believed the meticulously planned1982 assassination attempt on his life failed because the “Virgin Mary of Fatima” steered the bullet away from its intended target. The Pope also said that assassin Mehmet Ali Agca “grew interested in the secret of Fatima.”

That Austria could have been protected by the Hand of Providence in 1955 should not come as a shock. The Austrian Franciscan priest Fr. Petrus Pavlicek believed that, “Peace is a gift of God, not the work of politicians.” Fr. Pavlicek led a multi-year Rosary Crusade starting in 1947 to free Austria from the Soviet military occupation post WWII.

Born in 1902, Pavlicek had a delayed priestly vocation, being ordained in December, 1941. He was drafted into the German Army on May 13, 1942 the feast of Mary’s first appearance at Fatima, Portugal. On October 7, 1942, the feast of the Holy Rosary, he was sent to the Western Front as a paramedic. Americans captured him on August 15, 1944, the feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, and while detained as a prisoner of war he learned about Our Lady and her message at Fatima. On July 16, 1945, the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, he was released and went to the Marian shrine of Mariazell in Austria to thank Mary for her protection and to pray to learn God’s will. On February 2, 1946, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of the Mary in the Temple, he

asked Mary for her help for his homeland occupied by the four victorious powers. Suddenly he heard Mary’s answer: “Do what I tell you, and there will be peace.” On this word, in February 1947, he founded the Rosary Atonement Crusade for Peace in the World—RSK for short; he was also able to win over leading politicians as members.…
Father Peter led his prayer movement until his death [1982-ed]. Many honors were bestowed upon him. His coffin was decorated with a single wreath, the inscription of which read: Austria thanks Father Peter.

The Archdiocese of Vienna submitted a petition for the canonization of Fr. Pavlicek to Rome in 2021.

Fatima and Mary

Like Catholics in the West, Russian Orthodox Christians have a very long history of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as evidenced by the many religious icons depicting Mary and Jesus. One such Icon, Our Lady of Kazan, depicts Mary with Jesus as a child. It represents Mary as the patron of the City of Kazan and is also known as the Holy Protectress of Russia. The Russian Orthodox faithful believe that rejecting Mary’s help creates problems for such countries, and the Russian peasantry attributed “the rise of Communism in their country to the loss of the image of their heavenly protectress….”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, before becoming Pope Benedict, wrote that

Fatima is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions…especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.

Mary referenced the need to convert Russia in her message to the children of Fatima. The millennia-long love of the Virgin Mary by Orthodox Christians, strongly suggests we should invoke Mary’s intercession to secure permanent peace between Russia and Ukraine.

Writing about the Russians and the Cold War in 1952, Bishop Fulton Sheen stated:

In the theology of the Russians, before they were overwhelmed by the cold heart of the anti-God…they went on to predict that, when the world would reject Our Lord as it has done today, on that Dark Night the light of his Mother would arise to illumine the darkness and lead the world to peace.
The beautiful revelation of Our Blessed Mother at Fatima in Portugal from April to October, 1917, was another proof of the Russian thesis that, when the world would fight against the Savior, he would send his Mother to save us. And her greatest Revelation took place in the very month the Bolshevik Revolution began.

If praying the Rosary worked in 1955 to free Austria from atheistic Soviet rule, and many believe it did just that, we today must pray for Ukraine to be left in peace now as Austria was then.

Lucia, Jacinto, and Francisca were asked by the Virgin Mary at Fatima to, “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.” In the 1950s, American Catholics participated in huge Rosary gatherings on the Mall in Washington DC to pray for peace. On Sunday Oct. 24, 1954 my father and I were among 150,000 American Catholics who prayed the Rosary there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ineffabilis Deus, which formally defined the Immaculate Conception as a teaching of the Catholic Church. In those days, there was no subway system. People had to drive, find a parking space, and walk a considerable distance to the Rally.

Washington Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle (who racially integrated Catholic schools before the public schools did) presided at the Mass, and Bishop Fulton Sheen presented a homily on Mary as universal Mother. The size of the 1954 Marian crowd shown in a 32 second newsreel is stunning.

During America’s Civil War, it is reported that Abraham Lincoln was asked if God was on his side. He answered, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side…my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Continuing tensions, continuing prayer

In October, 1962 President Kennedy announced that the Soviets planned a military buildup in Cuba for the sole purpose of providing:

a nuclear strike capability against the western hemisphere.… Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.… To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back… We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.

Americans did not know what would happen with this thirteen-day potentially nuclear face-off between Russia and America. But after President Kennedy agreed with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, that if Soviet missiles were pulled from Cuba, then US Jupiter missiles would be removed from Italy and Turkey, the crisis was resolved peacefully with both sides keeping their agreement to remove missiles.

The political and military neutrality of Ukraine had been accepted by the United States, Russia and Great Britain in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum as part of establishing a nuclear non-proliferation agreement which provided that the three Powers would “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine…to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”

At the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the Arms Control Association notes that an independent Ukraine:

held the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world…an estimated 1,900 strategic warheads, 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and 44 strategic bombers. By 1996, Ukraine had returned all of its nuclear warheads to Russia in exchange for economic aid and security assurance.

And also in 1991, Vladimir Putin was a Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB or Committee for State Security, the Secret Police for the USSR. Radio Free Europe noted this past December that Putin said of the Soviet Collapse that, “It was the disintegration of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union…the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.” Regretfully, at present, for differing reasons both the political left and right in America have their “war” parties as well.

Instead, our prayers should never cease asking Mary to intercede with her Son for peace and for the violence and destruction to stop. French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau, at the close of World War I, stated, “War is too important to leave to the generals.” If that is true, and I think it is, then, “Peace is too important to leave to the politicians.” As citizens we have the moral right and civic duty to pray and fast for peace. When the disciples of Jesus were perplexed that they had failed to cast out a particular demon from a possessed young man, Jesus responded, that, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

As for the official position of the United States, George Washington warned right from the first that we should avoid entangling alliances. Rather, he advised:

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all—religion and morality enjoin this conduct…. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.…”

It is hard to disagree with the statement attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that “There never has been a good war, or a bad peace.” But far more importantly, Christians should recall the Beatitude Christ gave us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).

Bob Marshall served 26 years in the Virginia House of Delegates and was the chief House sponsor of the 2006 voter-approved Virginia Marriage Amendment and a ban on late term abortion. He recently wrote Reclaiming the Republic: How Christians and Other Conservatives Can Win Back America (TAN Books). Previously, he co-authored Blessed are the Barren, a social history of Planned Parenthood (Ignatius Press). Finally, don’t miss Bob’s Civics Lesson for Catholics in the Catholic Culture Podcast Episode 17. See the full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 09, 2022 6:43 PM ET USA

    Context of Putin's lamentation: "After the collapse of the USSR, 25 million Russian citizens suddenly found themselves abroad, in the republics of the former USSR, which became independent. Putin added that for those people who found themselves abroad against their will, it was bad. They could not return, to reunite with their relatives. For them, there was neither a job nor a residence, and this was a great humanitarian tragedy." Quoted from "Darik.News" English, 12 December 2021.