Msgr. Pavel Hnilica returned to heaven on October 8, 2006, the anniversary of the act of entrustment of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, made in 2000 and which he strongly desired.
The Armata Bianca is very grateful to Msgr. Hnilica, who followed it from its birth with the love of a father and the gentleness of a mother. In order to express our gratitude to him we couldn’t use more heart-felt words than the ones he himself told us in 1977 while presenting his book “Fatima and the children”.

“When, as a Bishop, I had to flee my Homeland, Czechoslovakia, together with some seminarians, because they had been persecuted for their religion, I was saved by the innocence of children. Now I will tell you, children, how the story went We were in the woods, with two local guides who had to take us beyond the border. In the group there was also a mother with a six-year-old boy, Ivan, and a little baby girl of 5-6 months. Since the woman couldn’t hold both children, I offered to carry the little boy.

We walked for three nights, and hid during the day because the area was guarded. We proceeded very slowly, behind the guides who touched the ground with a stick to see if there were any wires which, if touched with our feet, would have put the border guards on our trace.

I was always carrying Ivan on my shoulders. I remember that on the last night we had to cross the Moravia river with a rubber canoe, three at a time. Everyone wanted to go first, but I let the woman with the baby go first, and with all the caresses and promises in the world I tried to calm down the little boy who felt like crying and screaming when he saw his mother go away. Two hours later, we had all crossed and we were already in Austria, but still in Russian territory.

We were now close to the railway where we had to take the train, and we already felt safe. But all of a sudden the guides stopped bewildered: beyond a small bridge which we had to cross there was a shed which they had never seen before. They told us that perhaps it belonged to the workers who were repairing a breakdown on the railway, but it could also belong to the police. In doubt they advised us to cross the bridge very slowly.

When we were already on the bridge we heard some dogs barking, and four or five policemen with lamps in their hands came out of the shed and ordered us to stop shouting “Stop! Stop!”. We all – forget the “Stop!” – started running as fast as we could, the guides leading the way. Everyone wanted to save themselves. The most obstructed in the flight was the woman, and I kept her close to me while still carrying the little boy. The path through the fields was bumpy, and made more difficult yet by the snow which was melting; the woman fell down many times, even lost a shoe and at a certain point told me she couldn’t go on anymore. Then I carried the little girl as well.

At that moment I remembered that I was also carrying Jesus in the Eucharist, who I had always had with me for two years because in Czechoslovakia I didn’t have any place to celebrate Mass and give Communion, and I had the permission to carry Him with me. I then said to Jesus, praying as I had never prayed before: “Jesus, You must save us, at least for these innocent children! You must have mercy on this mother with these children!”. Indeed the police took three people from our group who could run, but they didn’t take us who were behind, and we were saved.

When we were alone, because the police were running after the others, we headed towards the lights of a town which was maybe four kilometres away. I also fell into a ditch full of water, but I managed to keep my elbows on the banks, without getting the little girl wet. Before reaching the town, the mother wanted to see if her little girl was sleeping, and she realized that I was carrying her… upside down, with her little face downwards! I wasn’t a good babysitter… But the little girl was sleeping peacefully, also because the evening before – thinking back on my medical studies – I had made her a light poppy tea, to make her sleep and prevent her from shouting … and in fact she slept so well, even with her head upside down…

We arrived in town when it was still night time, and we knocked at the parish priest’s door. He welcomed us generously, without caring about the risk he was running because we were still in Russian territory. At first he thought I was the little girl’s father, and he offered us breakfast. I told him in Latin, because I still didn’t speak German, that I was a priest and I asked if I could celebrate Mass before having breakfast. So, even though I was still soaked, I celebrated my most touching Mass after my First Mass.

I felt I was freed from a danger from which, humanly speaking, there was no way out. I felt the Lord’s goodness, his Grace, his plan and, in that Mass which lasted a long time even though I was still wet and the church was cold, I asked myself: “Lord, what do you want from me, if you have saved me so miraculously?”. And I consecrated myself, as I did in my First Mass, totally to his service through Our Lady’s hands, because I want to spend my life at his service in a special way for the same cause for which thousands of priests suffer in prison and for the conversion of Russia, just as Our Lady of Fatima requested.


Indeed, even today I ascribe my freedom to the innocence of the two little children I was carrying. Because of them I wasn’t put in prison again, because Jesus Himself must have been touched by the situation of those innocent children.

And I really think that, as then I was in serious danger, so today all humanity is in more serious danger. And I really think that Our Lady is begging Jesus: “You must save humanity at least for the innocence of children”.

Even if there wasn’t anything else good, Jesus must respect the innocence of children, and from the life of Jesus we know that He had a special predilection for children, and that he always – tired or not – always had an open heart and open doors for them. So, children, today Our Lady is really using you, your innocence, for the salvation of the world. You will find what you must do in Our Lady of Fatima’s message to the children.

She didn’t turn to three Bishops, like me, but to three children, because you children are more capable than Bishops, than adults and, if you are able to understand and carry out the message of Fatima as the three little shepherd children did, everyone, even adults, will follow you”.

Msgr. Paolo Hnilica
Titular Bishop of Rusado – Founder of the “Pro Fratribus”
Rome, 1977