The Controversy Concerning the Third Secret of Fatima
On July 13, 1917, three peasant children of Portugal received a miraculous vision
from Our Lady of Fatima concerning future events in the church and in the world. On June 26, 2000, the Vatican released the vision of the Third Secret along with an interpretation of its contents. The other two secrets had been released many years prior.
The release of the vision and its interpretation has caused some controversy. Unfortunately, Fatima has become yet another battleground between progressive and traditional factions within the Catholic Church, with the Vatican, as usual, caught in the middle.
On the one hand, the traditionalists claim that Vatican officials have not released the entire Third Secret of Fatima, and that the portion they have released suffers from an incorrect interpretation. Specifically, they hold that the consecration of Russia requested by Our Lady of Fatima has never been performed and thus her warning of that country's proliferation of error into the world is not over; and that the Vatican is involved in a world-wide conspiracy with Russia to suppress the Fatima revelation for fear of being incriminated.
On the other hand, the progressives have decried the relevance of Fatima since its inception, some claiming that Sr. Lucia, the only surviving member of the three children, may have suffered from delusions. They have also denied any suggestions that Fatima predicted an apostasy within the Church during the 20th century; and have insisted that the Vatican's attempt at cordial relations with Russia since the pontificate of John XIII is proper for the geo-political scene.
Before examining these issues, we will look at the translation of the text of the vision released by the Vatican.
First the introduction:
"The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917. I write in obedience to you, my God, Who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine."
"After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from Her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: "Penance, Penance, Penance!" And we saw in an immense light that is God; (something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it) a Bishop dressed in White (we have the impression that it was the Holy Father). Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins, half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in their hands, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God. Tuy-3-1-1944."
As noted above, to help in understanding the vision, and hoping to stem the tide of speculation among various Fatima enthusiasts, on June 26, 2000, the Vatican released what it believes to be the proper interpretation of the vision. In short, the interpretation, presented by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, applies all of the Fatima vision to events in the 20th century, implying that there is no future fulfillment of Fatima to be expected. As reported by the Washington Post, Cardinal Ratzinger was careful to add, however, that the Vatican's interpretation is not an "official interpretation"such that the Church is imposing it as the only possibility. In brief, the salient feature of the Vatican's interpretation holds that the killing of the Bishop dressed in white depicted in the vision refers to the assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in 1981 by gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter's Square.
I) Does the Third Secret have two parts, one released, and one not released?
Critics claim that not only is the Vatican's interpretation of the Fatima vision wrong, but the most important piece of evidence is missing. Personalities such as Fr. Nicholas Gruner, Fr. Paul Kramer, Fr. Paul Trinchard, Frere Michel, and many others, claim to have possession of personal interviews with Sr. Lucia that show she wrote down two separate accounts of the Fatima experience. One account was recorded in a notebook which filled four pages, the other on a single sheet of paper, both in her own handwriting. According to the reports, the notebook, comprising 62 lines, contained a description of the vision that the Fatima children saw, while the single sheet, comprised of about 25 lines, contained the actual words that Our Lady said to the children. What the Vatican is said to have released on June 26, however, is only the vision contained in the notebook, not the words from the single sheet of paper.
The critics say that the importance of the single sheet is that it not only contains Our Lady's words (which in her past apparitions have helped interpret the visions she presents), but the addition of a curious and interrupted sentence in the Fourth Memoir of Sr. Lucia. The sentence fragment reads, "In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc..." (1) This sentence fragment has great import, since its implied distinction between the country of Portugal and other the countries of the world in regards to whether they will maintain the Catholic faith suggests that the other nations, whoever they are, will not do so. Accordingly, the insertion of the abbreviation "etc" implies that there were originally more lines to the text, but these lines were subsequently removed or suppressed due to their specificity about the identity of the other countries and/or the degree and extent of the apostasy within the Church itself.
Critics support these claims by an analysis of the events leading up to the Vatican's release and interpretation of the vision. It is recollected that in October 1943, Bishop Jose Correia da Silva of the diocese of Leiria-Fatima in which Sr. Lucia resided, asked her to write down the vision and the words of Our Lady. After experiencing three months of intense inner turmoil due to the ominous content of the Third Secret, Sr. Lucia was apparently visited by Our Lady again on January 2, 1944, who encouraged her to write down the Third Secret. Sr. Lucia finally did so, stating in her letter of January 9, 1944, "...it is sealed in an envelope and it is in the notebook..." The critics maintain that these specific words indicate there were two separate sources of the Fatima revelation. The "envelope" refers to that which held the single sheet of paper containing 25 lines, upon which Sr. Lucia had recorded Our Lady's actual words, while the notebook refers to the vision containing the 62 lines. If so, then the single line, "In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved..." is one of 24 lines of text of which we have never been given the contents.
Bishop da Silva kept the Third Secret from January 1944 until 1957, at which time it was transferred to the Vatican on April 16, 1957 and was personally delivered to Pope Pius XII. Pope Pius then placed the Third Secret in his personal desk, inside a wooden box, with the inscription Secretum Sancti Officii. (2) The June 26, 2000 statement from the Vatican acknowledges a 1957 transfer of the Fatima revelation to its Holy Office. Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, presently Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger, states:
"The sealed envelope was initially in the custody of the Bishop of Leiria. To ensure better protection for the ‘secret,' the envelope was placed in the Secret Archives of the Holy Office on 4 April, 1957."
Critics claim that there is a discrepancy, since two different dates are given for transfer, one April 4, the other April 16. This discrepancy raises suspicion that there were two documents transferred to the Vatican on two different dates, but only one was reported on June 26, 2000 – the notebook containing the vision, not the letter containing Our Lady's words.
A few years prior to the 1957 transfer of the Fatima secret to the Vatican, Pius XII had commissioned Father Schweigl to conduct an interview with Sr. Lucia in Portugal. He did so on September 2, 1952 at the Carmel of Coimbra. After the interview, Fr. Schweigl is said to have revealed that the Third Secret of Fatima has two parts: one concerning the Pope (although he did not identify which Pope), and one concerning the completion of the sentence: "In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved..." Pius XII then commissioned Cardinal Ottaviani to interview Sr. Lucia again in May 1955 regarding the Third Secret. Shortly thereafter, as noted above, the Vatican demanded the transfer of the Fatima revelation to the Holy Office in 1957.
The question regarding the existence of two Fatima documents grows deeper, since already in 1960 the Vatican acknowledged that a specific text of the Third Secret containing Mary's words did actually exist. Reporting in A. N. I., the Portuguese news agency revealed on February 8, 1960: "It has just been stated, from very reliable Vatican circles, to the representatives of United Press International, that it is most likely that the letter will never be opened, in which Sister Lucy wrote down the words which Our Lady confided as a secret to the three little shepherds in the Cova da Iria." This was a significant obstacle, since Sr. Lucia had years earlier received a promise from Bishop da Silva that the Secret would be opened and read to the world upon her death or in 1960, whichever came first. When asked in 1946 why she wanted it read in 1960, Sr. Lucia is said to have responded to Canon Barthas: "Because the Blessed Virgin wishes it so," and that "it would be clearer at that time." Archbishop Bertone, however, stated in the Vatican's announcement that when questioned about this, Sr. Lucia said: "It was not Our Lady. I fixed the date because I had the intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood, but that only later would it be understood. Now it can be better understood." The problem with this purported explanation is that if the vision applies only to John Paul II's assassination attempt in 1981, revealing the Third Secret in 1960 would have offered no better understanding or explanation of its contents than revealing it prior to 1960, since there were no significant events in 1960 to make the Third Secret's revelation pertinent to that time.
Supporters also depend on Sr. Lucia's statement from her Third Memoir as sufficient evidence as to why she did not reveal the Third Secret earlier. In the Third Memoir she states:
"It may be, Your Excellency, that some people think that I should have made known all this some time ago, because they consider that it would have been twice as valuable years beforehand. This would have been the case, if God had willed to present me to the world as a prophetess. But I believe that God had no such intention, when he made known these things to me. If that had been the case, I think that, in 1917, when He ordered me to keep silence...He would, on the contrary, have ordered me to speak."
Some believe that this statement shows Sr. Lucia did not reveal the Third Secret because she was not appointed by God to do so. But an equally valid interpretation is that Sr. Lucia did not consider herself to be the one to reveal the Third Secret to the world, since that privilege rested with the bishops of the world. Throughout the ordeal of the Fatima revelations, Sr. Lucia had always subjected herself to the judgments of the hierarchy and never made decisions on her own authority.
On August 17, 1959, critics believe that Pope John XIII was presented with the envelope containing the Third Secret. Upon reading the secret, he revealed its contents to Cardinal Ottaviani, but chose not to reveal it to anyone else. According to Ottaviani, Pope John XIII placed the Secret "in one of those archives which are like a very deep, dark well, to the bottom of which papers fall and no one is able to see them anymore." Likewise, Pope Paul VI was presented with the Third Secret sometime after his election on June 21, 1963, but did not choose to reveal its contents.
Adding to the concern is the 1967 statement by Cardinal Ottaviani, then Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, in a press conference on February 11 during the meeting of the Pontifical Marian Academy in Rome. There he stated: "I, who have had the grace and the gift to read the text of the Secret – although I too am held to secrecy because I am bound by the Secret..." Here the Cardinal acknowledges the existence of a "text" of the secret, not a mere vision. Whether the Cardinal meant that his reference to a "text" refers to the whole Fatima revelation written down by Sister Lucia, or just the letter portion, or just the notebook portion, is not discernible. However, the Cardinal was more definitive in the following statement: "And then, what did she [Sr. Lucia] do to obey the Most Holy Virgin? She wrote on a sheet of paper, in Portuguese, what the Holy Virgin had asked her to tell." This wording seems to be a reference to a single sheet of paper containing the text, as opposed to the four notebook pages on which Sr. Lucia supposedly wrote the vision.
If the 1960 account from the A. N. I. is reliable; the words of Cardinal Ottaviani are understood literally; the interview with Fr. Schwiegl revealing a missing text is accurate; and the words of Sr. Lucia regarding the "envelope" and the "notebooks" refer to Our Lady's words and vision, respectively, the critics conclude that each of these evidences conflict with what was released by the Vatican on June 26, 2000, since only the vision Our Lady revealed to the children, not the words she spoke to them, were made public. Further evidence is cited in that what the Vatican released on June 26, 2000 was transcribed on four sheets of paper, which, coincidentally, would correspond to the four sheets from Sr. Lucia's notebook, whereas eyewitness testimonies of those who have seen the single sheet state that it contains only about 25 lines of text. Critics claim that one of those eyewitnesses was auxiliary Bishop Venancio of Leiria-Fatima, who had seen the envelope through a lighted background and noticed that it contained a single sheet of paper.
Although these questions persist, in the end, we must trust that John Paul II has released all of what he has or understands the Third Secret to contain. Any other explanation would essentially amount to accusing John Paul II of falsehood and deliberate obfuscation. The only other possibility is that, if an additional 24 lines of text exists, either the Vatican, at some time or other during the four decades ending on June 2000, inadvertently lost possession of the 25-line text, or someone inside the Vatican had, at some time or other, confiscated the text so that it no longer appeared either in the Vatican office or the papal residence.
II) An Anti-Climactic Interpretation:
Considering that the first two secrets of Fatima were both ominous and apocalyptic, giving detailed facts about the future and whose contents the Vatican revealed prior to the fulfillment of the event, critics inquire why the Third Secret, which one would also expect to be apocalyptic, is not revealed before the fulfillment of the event, especially since the event it supposedly foresaw (an assassination attempt on the current pope) is somewhat anticlimactic compared to the first two secrets.
The context for this question takes us back to the day of October 13, 1917 when one of the greatest miracles ever recorded in the history of Christendom occurred in front of 70,000 people as the sun literally danced in the sky for eight minutes and then returned to its place of origin. This miracle was predicted three months in advance of its occurrence by Our Lady, specifically so that the people would believe the contents of the Fatima revelation. In accord with the spectacular nature of this miracle, the children were given equally spectacular visions and prophecies. The first secret concerned the existence and nature of Hell. Sr. Lucia's memoirs record the utter torment awaiting damned souls. She writes:
"And we saw as it were a sea of fire; plunged in this fire we saw the demons and the souls of the damned. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened, burnished, bronzed, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now they fell back on every side like huge sparks in huge first without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair which horrified us and made us tremble with fright. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. The vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to Our good heavenly Mother who, at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think, we would have died of fear."
Our Lady then said to them:
"You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart."
Sr. Lucia also records the vision and sayings of the "Angel of the Eucharist" that she and the other children saw a year prior to the apparition of Our Lady. At one point the angel prostrated himself down to the earth and repeated three times the following prayer:
"Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly, and I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners."
The import of both Our Lady's words and the words of the angel are that they focus on the sins of mankind which have apparently reached up to the heights of heaven and which will receive God's ultimate judgment of Hell, unless repentance is made. This was during a time, 1917, in which the sins of the world were not half as grievous as they are today. Men were not practicing contraception, abortion, homosexuality, adultery, and blasphemy any where near the scale that they are some 80 years later. To some, this suggests that the Third Secret, rather than being a mere anticlimactic appendage of the first two secrets, has as much, or more significance, on the stage of world events. It would only make sense that the Third Secret expands on the first two secrets. If, as many eyewitness accounts hold, the Third Secret includes a prophecy about the Catholic faith remaining in Portugal, and implies by the infamous unrevealed "etc" that many other nations of the world would lose their faith, then the vision of Hell in the First Secret has a much more pertinent and ominous reason for its revealing by Our Lady, that is, the souls of the faithless in all these countries outside of Portugal will be eternally punished in Hell. If true, this indeed is a grim picture of the future, but in reality, it is no different than the apocalyptic visions of the Old and New Testament prophets, including the book of Revelation, whose preponderant message is one of judgment against the sins of an apostate people.
Critics further state that the message of God's imminent judgment is not the kind that many Catholics are taught today by the liberal theologians of the world, both Catholic and Protestant. The abiding message from liberal theology is that there are very few people who go to Hell, if indeed, Hell even exists. It is further reasoned that if officials of the Vatican are heavily influenced by the Church's liberal theologians, and these theologians do not recognize the gravity of the sins that permeate today's world (much more than the world of 1917), and these same theologians foresee and wish for a time of blessing and world-wide salvation, they would naturally be inclined to dismiss, in whole or in part, the message of apostasy and judgment in the Third Secret of Fatima. Moreover, they would try to suppress its release until a less volatile and, more or less, innocuous interpretation could be given to it; and seek to release only those portions of the Secret that do not infringe on their liberal-minded goals for the Church. Indeed, the vision of the Fatima children does not suggest a rosy picture for the future that liberal theologians predict. The cry of the angel to do "Penance, Penance, Penance," as the vision is opened, and the fact that the "Bishop dressed in white," along with "other bishops, priests, religious and lay people" are killed, suggests that the sins of which the angel alluded were coming right from within the Church and that repentance from the Church's people was not forthcoming, resulting in God's judgment and the scattering of dead bodies all over the land. These possibilities, though somewhat incriminating, are not far-fetched, since anyone familiar with the goings-on in the Catholic Church for the last 50 years knows quite well of the virtual war between its liberal and conservative factions. That these factions exist even in the Vatican itself is well-known.
Adding to the furor are the comments of other Vatican insiders. For example, Monsignor Corrado Balducci, and several other bishops in Italy, immediately voiced their discontent in Italian newspapers as soon as the Vatican interpretation was made public on June 26, 2000, as well as doubting whether the whole of the Third Secret was released. Monsignor Balducci is quoted as saying: "...there are too many discrepancies...And I am asking myself, where are the other parts of the prophecy regarding the doctrinal crisis of the Church and the Third World War." This objection, of course, alludes to the purported missing 24 lines of text from the single sheet written by Sr. Lucia, as well as the Vatican's lack of a specific interpretation of the vision's half-ruined city and the murder of bishops, priests, religious and lay people. Although some may claim that the murder of these Catholics means that they were martyrs, it is also possible that they were rightful victims of God's judgment due to the apostasy they generated in the Church - a judgment that God brought upon them by using the atheistic nations of the world, which, according to the Old and New Testaments, is the usual divine protocol when God brings wrath against His people.
If the message of Fatima predicts that many in the church will lose their faith, then a judgment from God for apostasy is certainly possible. St. John, for example, in Revelation chapters 1-3 takes great pains to elaborate the judgments of God upon the Catholic churches of Asia minor in the first century, and John is clear, as are the other writers of the New Testament, that these judgments will continue throughout the Church age. 1 Peter 4:17 warns: "For there is a time in which judgment is to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" The New Testament is replete with such warnings (cf., Acts 20:29-31; Rom. 11:18-22; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 4:6-11; 10:29-31; 2 Pet. 2:1; et al).
These were the same kind of warnings that Israel, the people of God in ancient times, received for their apostasy, such as Ezekiel 9:4-10 and Jeremiah 25:29-37.
"And the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.' But to the others he said in my hearing, ‘Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.' So they started with the elders who were before the temple. And He said to them, ‘Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!' thus they went out and struck down the people in the city. Then it came about as they were striking and I alone was left, that I fell on my face and cried out saying, ‘Alas, Lord God! Art Thou destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Thy wrath on Jerusalem?' Then He said to me, ‘The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very, great, and the land is filled with blood, and the city is full of perversion; for they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!' But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor shall I spare, but I shall bring their conduct upon their heads."
Similar to Ezekiel, Jeremiah 25:29-37 states:
"For behold, I am beginning to work calamity in this city which is called by My name, and shall you be completely free from punishment? You will not be free from punishment; for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the Lord of hosts. Therefore you shall prophesy against them all these words, and you shall say to them...Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, evil is going forth from nation to nation, and a great storm is being stirred up from the remotest parts of the earth. And those slain by the Lord on that day shall be from one end of the earth to the other. They shall not be lamented, gathered, or buried; they shall be like dung on the face of the ground. Wail, you shepherds, and cry; and wallow in ashes, you masters of the flock; For the days of your slaughter and your dispersions have come, and you shall fall like a choice vessel. Flight shall perish from the shepherds, and escape from the masters of the flock. Hear the sound of the cry of the shepherds, and the wailing of the masters of the flock! For the Lord is destroying their pasture, and the peaceful folds are made silent, because of the fierce anger of the Lord."
Critics point out that many in today's Church are reticent to hear any prophetic message of apostasy and future judgment. Indeed, those who have dared preach such a message, and/or interpret the revelation of Fatima as carrying that same message for the future, have been publicly maligned and even threatened with excommunication by certain Vatican officials. They conclude that the marginalization of today's prophets of judgment thus keep company with their tormented mentors of old, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (cf., Jeremiah 1:11-19; 20:1-6; 26:7-15; 32:1-5; 37:11-16; 38:1-13; Ezekiel 1-10; 22-23).
In light of the possibility of God's judgment, Sr. Lucia is reported to have said:
"And let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way. On the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible."
Moreover, Sr. Lucia, on May 12 1982, in a letter to Pope John Paul II, said:
"...if we have not yet seen the complete fulfillment of the final part of the prophecy, we are going towards it little by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred, revenge...it is the people themselves who are preparing their own punishment."
To critics, this commentary is significant, since it is only one year after the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Moreover, on May 13, 1982, a day after the letter from Sr. Lucia, Pope John Paul II stated: "The message of Fatima is more relevant and more urgent today than 65 years ago." If the vision was completely fulfilled on May 13, 1981 when the attempted assassination of the Pope occurred, then there would be little reason for him to speak of the urgency of Fatima's fulfillment.
Conversely, the Vatican's interpretation holds that there is no more fulfillment to be expected from the Fatima vision. Cardinal Sodano stated on May 13, 2000: "the events to which the third part of the secret of Fatima refers now seem part of the past...," and Archbishop Bertone stated: "The decision of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to make public the third part of the secret of Fatima brings to an end a period of history marked by tragic human lust for power and evil..." Indeed, the present interpretation offered by these Vatican officials would categorically eliminate any immediate threat of divine chastisement for the sins of both the Church and the world from either Fatima or any other Marian apparition.
According to Archbishop Bertone, following the assassination attempt on his life on May 13, 1981, John Paul II had asked to see the envelope containing the Third Secret. On July 18, 1981, Cardinal Franjo Seper, Prefect of the Congregation, gave two envelopes to Archbishop Eduard Martinez, one white envelope containing Sr. Lucia's original text in Portuguese; and an orange envelope containing the Italian translation of the secret. On August 11, 1981, Archbishop Martinez returned the two envelopes to the Archives of the Holy Office.
John Paul II reasoned that the Third Secret applied to his assassination when, in Crossing The Threshold of Hope [copyright 1994], he wrote:
"And thus we come to May 13, 1981, when I was wounded by gunshots fired in St. Peter's Square. At first, I did not pay attention to the fact that the assassination attempt had occurred on the exact anniversary of the day Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima in Portugal and spoke to them the words that now, at the end of this century, seem close to their fulfillment."
John Paul II was thus convinced of the connection between Fatima's Third Secret and his assassination attempt. Cardinal Sodano states in the June 2000 announcement:
"On the occasion of a visit to Rome by the then Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, the Pope decided to give him the bullet which had remained in the jeep after the assassination attempt, so that it might be kept in the shrine. By the bishop's decision, the bullet was later set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima."
Critics argue that not only does the Vatican interpretation not fit the vision of Fatima, but it is obvious to anyone looking at the world objectively that, contrary to Archbishop Bertone's statement, as of June 26, 2000, the "human lust for power and evil" is very much alive in our present world and continues to grow worse. Abortion, population control, nuclear arms proliferation, Middle East tensions, and atheistic regimes, to name a few, are still at unprecedented levels. Just a few months ago, homosexuals supported by the Italian government paraded through the streets of Rome in total defiance of Pope John Paul's wishes. Not only is moral decay true for the world, it is also true inside the Church itself. Among the Catholic population of North America and Europe less than a combined 20% attend Mass on any given Sunday. Catholics all over the world are practicing contraception and abortion at unprecedented levels. Since the 1970's estimates of homosexuals in the Roman clergy have reached epidemic proportions. Liberal theologians, bishops and universities, denying even the most basic tenets of the Catholic faith, permeate the Americas and Europe. Unfortunately, some Vatican officials still court these defiant theologians, placing them in seats of high influence.
In light of these things, skeptics like renowned mariologist, Rene Laurentin, stated on May 21, 2000: "I believe that the Third Secret also spoke of crises and divisions within the Church since the Second Vatican Council." (3) Fr. Joaquin Alonso, the official archivist of Fatima, and one who had conversed with Sr. Lucia, stated: "It is therefore completely probable that the text [of the Third Secret] makes concrete references to the crisis of faith within the Church and to the negligence of the pastors themselves...internal struggles in the very bosom of the Church and of grave pastoral negligence of the upper hierarchy." If true, it is reasonable to see why no Pope had the courage to reveal the contents of the text of the Third Secret, especially in light of the positive changes anticipated by the aggoranimento of Vatican II.
III) Cardinal Ratzinger's Remarks in 1984:
Cardinal Ratzinger states in the press release of June 26, 2000:
"A careful reading of the text of the so-called third secret of Fatima, published here in its entirety long after the fact and by decision of the Holy Father, will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. We see the Church of the martyrs of the century which has just passed represented in a scene described in a language which is symbolic and not easy to decipher."
In an interview with La Repubblica, Cardinal Ratzinger likwise stated:
"There will be no new surprises. What is more, I believe that, at the end, the secret will be reduced to its exact dimensions...because not that much can be expected from these private revelations."
From these statements, critics conclude that Cardinal Ratzinger has confined the fulfillment of the vision to past events, namely, those occurring in the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981. In the June 2000 announcement he stated: "We must agree with Cardinal Sodano that the events to which the third part of the secret of Fatima refers now seem part of the past..." He adds "not that much can be expected from these private revelations." To the critics, this is certainly a puzzling remark, considering that the Fatima vision was indeed important enough for the Vatican officials to conclude that it was fulfilled in the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II. If little is to be expected from such visions, then the question arises as to why the Third Secret is applied to one of the most significant assassination attempts in the 20th century. Hardly any of other visions from Marian apparitions are given specific applications to current events, since most are only general messages of repentance and judgment.
In this light, critics also point out that Fatima is unique among Marian apparitions, since it was not merely a private revelation per se, but one authenticated by 70,000 witnesses who saw the sun dance in the sky for eight minutes, not to mention one that is officially approved by the Vatican. These criteria of authenticity are much more significant today, since on November 15, 1966, Pope Paul had changed the code of canon law which allowed for any suspected apparition to be published without Church consent or miracles of authentication. This has resulted in a plethora of reported apparitions around the world in the last 30 years, most of which have not been approved. But not so with Fatima. Its authenticity has been proven repeatedly and it remains the single most important and substantiated apparition of all time. It has global and apocalyptic significance, since it mentions the futures of specific countries such as Portugal and Russia, and may include others not yet revealed.
Critics also point out various conflicting statements from the Vatican. For example, Pope Pius XII stated just prior to his death in 1958: "The time for doubting Fatima is past," yet a 1960 press release issued from reliable Vatican sources stated that the Third Secret would not be revealed as planned since "the Church...does not pledge herself to guarantee the veracity of the words which the three little shepherds claim to have heard from Our Lady," a statement the Vatican never retracted or contradicted. Not only does this set Pius XII's statement against the 1960 press release, but the specific mention of, "the words which the three little shepherds claim to have heard from Our Lady" implies that the revelation of Fatima includes a specific text of spoken words from Our Lady to the children, rather than just a vision.
Cardinal Ratzinger later suggests in the June 26, 2000 Vatican press release that some of the vision of Fatima is still relevant:
"The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God...represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy."
Either this statement is pointing toward the years after June 2000, or it may merely be an anachronistic portrayal of what was then considered future in the years between 1945 when the first nuclear bomb decimated Hiroshima, Japan, and 1981. Regardless, Cardinal Ratzinger's language implies that the angel's flaming sword refers to the threat of a nuclear war. Indeed, nuclear war was a constant threat in the twentieth century, and in some instances it was an imminent threat (e.g., the 1962 Cuban missile crisis between the United States and Russia). Conversely, such interpretation makes the fulfillment of the vision's divine chastisement dependent on man's technology, as if God had to wait for man's tools. In this light, the statement of the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Cosme do Amaral, on September 10, 1984, to the Technical University of Vienna stands out. After questioning Sr. Lucia on the Third Secret, he wrote:
"The Third Secret of Fatima speaks neither of atomic bombs nor of nuclear warheads, nor of SS20 missiles. Its content concerns only our faith. To identify the Secret with catastrophic announcements or with a nuclear holocaust is to distort the meaning of the message. The loss of faith of a continent is worse than the annihilation of a nation; and it is true that faith is continually diminishing in Europe."
Critics point out that Cardinal Ratzinger's reference to a future judgment in the above statement is similar to another statement he made on November 11, 1984 in an interview with the Italian journal Jesus. When asked by the interviewer, Vittorio Messori, if he had read the secret, Cardinal Ratzinger answered:
"Yes, I've read the Third Secret .... according to the judgment of the Popes, it would add nothing to what a Christian must know from Revelation: a radical call to conversion, the absolute seriousness of history, the dangers threatening the faith and life of the Christian, and therefore the world. And also the importance of the Last Times .... the things contained in this Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture, and also from the Marian apparitions approved by the Church in their known contents, which only reconfirmed the urgency of penance, conversion, forgiveness, fasting. To publish the ‘third secret' would mean exposing the Church to the danger of sensationalism, exploitation of the content." (4)
Messori then writes:
‘Perhaps also political implications, I venture, since it seems that here, also, as in the two other "secrets," Russia is mentioned?' At this point, however, the Cardinal declares that he is not in a position to go further into the matter and firmly refuses to discuss other particulars..."
Cardinal Ratzinger's specific mention of the "Last Times" and "Scripture" is not surprising when one considers that Sr. Lucia herself is purported to have said that the 8th and 13th chapters of the book of Revelation were intimately involved with the Fatima revelation.
Critics point out that when a comparison of the ominous tone in his November 1984 statement is made with the virtual dismissal of any future relevance to the Fatima vision in his June 2000 statement, it seems that, over a sixteen year period, Cardinal Ratzinger has exhibited conflicting views of Fatima. In the latter part of that sixteen year period, Fatima is minimized as a mere private revelation containing little new information, whereas sixteen years ago Fatima was put on par with the revelations of the Last Times mentioned in Scripture. This is a significant discrepancy, since the mention of the "Last Times" and "Scripture" is being stated three years after the purported final fulfillment of Fatima had already taken place in 1981 in the attempted assassination of John Paul II.
Critics show that the book which contains Cardinal Ratzinger's interview with Vittorio Messori has been edited, indicating that the few pages dealing with Fatima have been modified. The book records the question by Messori addressed to Cardinal Ratzinger:
"Undenied versions are circulating in the world, I continue, which describe the contents of that "secret" as disquieting, apocalyptic, as warning of terrible sufferings. John Paul II himself, in his personal visit to Germany, seemed to confirm (albeit with prudent circumlocutions, privately, to a select group) the undeniably disconcerting contents of that text. Before him, Paul VI, during his pilgrimage to Fatima, also seems to have alluded to the "apocalyptic" themes of the "secret." Why was it never decided to make it public, if only to counter rash speculations?"
The book records Cardinal Ratzinger responding:
"Yes, I've read the Third Secret .... according to the judgment of the Popes, it would add nothing to what a Christian must know from Revelation: a radical call to conversion, the absolute seriousness of history, the dangers threatening the faith and life of the Christian, and therefore the world. And also the importance of the Last Times .... the things contained in this Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture, and also from the Marian apparitions approved by the Church in their known contents, which only reconfirmed the urgency of penance, conversion, forgiveness, fasting. To publish the ‘third secret' would mean exposing the Church to the danger of sensationalism, exploitation of the content."
Upon examining the two accounts of the interview, one will immediately notice that the words "...the dangers threatening the faith and life of the Christian, and therefore the world. And also the importance of the Last Times...the things contained in this Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture..." are missing from the interview recorded in The Ratzinger Report. (5) There is no indication in the Ratzinger Report that these words were removed, giving the reader the impression that Cardinal Ratzinger said nothing to the interviewer of an apocalyptic note.
Critics point out that not only does there seem to be a concerted effort by the book to subvert what the Cardinal actually said, but without the actual words, it makes Ratzinger's view undercut all Marian apparitions and makes one wonder why Mary would even appear to various people if her accompanying messages would give no greater knowledge and provide no greater impact than what the people already knew. It also undercuts the specificity of the Fatima revelation, namely, the mention of Portugal and Russia, details of which, according to his abrupt ending of the interview with Messori, Cardinal Ratzinger was not at all anxious to reveal.
Adding to the confusion is an article in the March 2, 1998 issue of Catholic World News which claims that Sr. Lucia stated that John Paul II averted a nuclear war when he consecrated Russia in May 1984. She is also purported to have also said that the Third Secret of Fatima was not intended for public revelation but was only destined for the Pope and the ecclesial hierarchy close to him. If true, this certainly would contradict Sr. Lucia's well-known desire to have the Third Secret revealed in 1960 or after her death, which ever came first.
IV) The Vatican Interpretation Does Fit the Details of the Vision of the Third Secret:
Critics claim that if one reads the account of Sr. Lucia's vision very carefully, it reveals events that have minimal, if any, connection to the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981. Here, again, is the portion of that account taken from the vision released by the Vatican:
"...before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions."
The salient points of this vision include the following:
1) "The Holy Father passes through a big city half in ruins with halting step."
Literally speaking, as of May 1981, St. Peter's Square was not a "city half in ruins." Rome, and St. Peter's Square, remain intact and vibrant, at least in regards to physical demographics. Moreover, the "halting step" was not characteristic of the demeanor or physical capability of John Paul in 1981, since his life at that time was full of vigor and excitement. John Paul may have had a "halting step" after he was shot, but that would force an anachronistic interpretation into the vision, since the vision shows that the "halting step" comes before the Bishop in white is accosted.
On the other hand, employing a symbolic interpretation to this part of the vision would most likely have it refer to a spiritual decimation either in Italy where the Vatican is located, or throughout the entire world. The "halting step" could refer to the extreme difficulty of John Paul II, or the other Popes of the twentieth century, to maintain the Christian faith against a host of odds, both within and outside the Church. In the face of the proliferation of communist regimes throughout the world during the 1940's-1980's, along with many within the Catholic Church who supported Marxist-Leninist ideologies, such as the Jesuits, the Popes of the twentieth century have faced very formidable foes. If one merely takes account of the murders committed by communist nations against their own people, in a recent book, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, (6) the authors calculate that over 90 million people have been killed since 1917 due to communist atrocities. From Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, to the Sandinistas, the slaughter of innocent victims, including many Catholic priest, nuns, and religious, has been unprecedented in this past century. In the last fifty years, Communist Russia has been responsible for starting the wars in many countries (e.g., Algeria, Angola, Cambodia, Chile, Congo, Cuba, Indonesia, Iraq-Iran, Korea, Malaya, Nigeria, Palestine-Israel, Rhodesia-Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Serbia, Zambia, Zanzibar, as well as the Gulf war in 1991). In each of these it has spread its atheistic philosophy.
2) "Afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way."
Critics point out that the scene at St. Peter's Square in 1981 was a festive one, not one that even remotely portrayed a sad man walking through a scene of morbidity. Rather, the scene in the vision pictures the Bishop having temporarily escaped the violence of his assassins and with enough time to view the carnage those assassins left just prior to his own demise. This part of the vision is almost identical to the vision of Pope Pius X, who foresaw one of his successors stepping through a sea of bodies, escaping from Rome, and then being killed himself. It is also very similar to the vision of St. John Bosco concerning a Pope who is wounded and falls, recovers slightly, and then falls again, dead, after which the next Pope guides the Church to safety between a pillar of the Holy Eucharist and a pillar of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
3) "Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him."
In the eyes of the critics, this part of the vision contains the most obvious contradiction to the Vatican interpretation, since: (a) Pope John Paul was not killed, (b) Ali Agca was not a soldier, (c) Ali Agca was a lone gunman, (d) Ali Agca did not use arrows in addition to bullets, (e) Pope John Paul was neither at the top of a mountain nor kneeling at the foot of a big Cross when he was shot. In fact, there is nothing in this vision which matches what happened to John Paul II.
On the other hand, if this scene is merely symbolic, the critic's objections carry no weight, since there would then be an unspecified freedom in interpreting its details. Similar to biblical prophecies, there is often a mixture of literal and symbolic scenes, as well as a compression of time so that one scene may represent a whole era. Moreover, elements such as "arrows" could be a sign that the vision is not to be interpreted literally, since such weaponry had long become obsolete by 1917 when the vision was given to the Fatima children. It is also possible that Sr. Lucia's account of the vision was as if the crippling of John Paul II after the shooting was dead, but not necessarily literally dead. If we add to this that, similar to biblical prophecies, the eventualities detailed in apparitions are often conditioned on the actions of its subjects to heed the warnings given in the message, John Paul II's surviving of the gun shot wound may have been due to Mary's intercession - a scenario that John Paul II himself has supported. Indeed, Cardinal Ratzinger took these things into account when giving the Vatican's interpretation:
"The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image. Just as the places of the earth are synthetically described in the two images of the mountain and the city, and are directed towards the cross, so too time is presented in a compressed way. In the vision we can recognize the last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty."
One might argue, however, that since the Vatican has chosen to interpret the "bullets" of the vision literally, that is, that they refer to the actual bullets from the gun of Ali Agca, then it would seem logical to expect a literal interpretation for the rest of the vision. Once one commits to a literal interpretation of one part, it would logically require a literal interpretation to the other parts, or at least, an explanation why the other parts were not to be interpreted literally. If not, then the interpretation could be accused of being fabricated to fit a preconceived idea or agenda, especially when compared to the literal fulfillment of the first two secrets of Fatima. One of those predictions concerned Our Lady's statement: "if what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war [World War I] is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI." All of this prophecy, of course, was literally fulfilled, since World War II broke out in 1939 when Germany annexed Austria during the pontificate of Pius XI.
It might also be said that if one were to interpret the vision symbolically, then the attempted assassination of John Paul II might fit no better as a fulfillment than some other symbolic event. For example, the vision's portrayal of the assassination of the Holy Father could be symbolic of the Church going through a time of spiritual persecution and that the Pope will be maligned and lose respect from the world. Similarly, the killing of the other bishops, priests and religious could be symbolic of a spiritual decimation of the world's Catholic churches through persecution. Hence, there are any number of symbolic interpretations that could be given to the vision. In effect, the point stands that choosing which parts of the vision are literally fulfilled and time-specific, as opposed to other parts being symbolic and time-compressed, becomes an arbitrary exercise. To have relative consistency, the interpretation should answer all the dimensions of the vision on the same level, and it must do so with the same specificity that the vision was given. In choosing a literal interpretation of the vision's portrayal of the assassination of the Bishop clothed in white, the Vatican has, more or less, confined itself, since it would then be expected to give a literal interpretation to the remaining killings that occur in the vision. In light of this, critics point out that there is no evidence for such killings, at least not in St. Peter's Square in 1981.
There is one more caveat. If the Vatican chooses to symbolize the assassination of the Bishop in white, depending on one's perspective and interpretation of the world scene, it might have even more difficulty in finding a past fulfillment, for in no time during the reigns of the last few popes have any of them been spiritually "assassinated" by the world. If anything, the last few popes, beginning with John XIII and up to John Paul II, have enjoyed world-wide acclaim and have been pivotal in choosing the direction that the world scene has taken. In the age of ecumenism, one might say that there has been far less spiritual persecution of Catholics and of the Pope then there has been in all the time commencing from the Reformation. Although the murderous reign of communist regimes is a viable candidate as a fulfillment to persecution, most of those eliminated were ideological enemies of communism, not necessarily Christian.
4) "And in the same way there died one after another the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions."
As noted above, the Vatican's interpretation would find it difficult to explain how this particular facet of the vision was fulfilled in the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The vision specifies that "other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people" were killed. None of this literally occurred in 1981. Since the assassination of the Bishop in white is, according to the vision, virtually at the same time as the killing of the other bishops, priests, religious and lay people, then the interpretation of the vision is required, by normally accepted rules, to show the simultaneity of the two events. Moreover, as noted above, since the Vatican's view interprets the assassination of the Bishop dressed in white to be fulfilled literally in the attempted assassination John Paul II, then interpretive equilibrium would require it to apply a similar interpretation to the death of the other bishops, priests, religious and lay people. Since the Vatican offered no figurative interpretation of the killing of the "Bishop dressed in white," then it has offered no alternative explanation as to how the killings of the "other bishops, priests, religious and lay people," which appear to be an integral part of the vision, fit in.
Critics point out that in Archbishop Bertone's explanation of the vision, more anomalies are present. Bertone quotes Sr. Lucia as saying,
"We did not know the name of the Pope; Our Lady did not tell us the name of the Pope; we did not know whether it was Benedict XV or Pius XII or Paul VI or John Paul II; but it was the Pope who was suffering and that made us suffer too."
First, Sr. Lucia's statement, though honest, is anachronistic, since neither she nor her cousins knew the identity of either Pius XII, Paul VI, or John Paul II, at the time the Fatima vision was given in 1917. Thus, it is irrelevant for her, at this time, to give a list of Popes which she could have not possibly identified in 1917. Hypothetically speaking, for all we know, the vision could be speaking about the future Pope Pius XIII or Pope John Paul III, or any other pope.
Second, although Sr. Lucia agreed with Pope John Paul's claim that Mary had guided the path of Ali Agca's bullet away from the pope, Archbishop Bertone attempted to make Sr. Lucia's agreement with the pope into an interpretation of the vision, stating that "it was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death." (7) Although Cardinal Bertone puts more of a literal interpretation on the key words in the vision: "bullet," "halted," and "death," this seems to be a forced interpretation, since the vision literally specifies (a) "arrows" with the bullets, (b) that the Bishop in white was "halting" prior to being shot, and (c) that the Bishop was not at the "throes of death," but actually died. As noted above, the more literal one attempts to make the interpretation, as is seen by Archbishop Bertone's attempt to use the very words of the vision, the more the interpreter confines himself into having to provide a literal interpretation to the whole vision. However, the fact remains that there are so very few events that occurred in St. Peter's Square in May 1981 which qualify as viable candidates for a literal interpretation of the Third Secret's vision.
V) The failure to specifically consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
Concerning Russia, the Second Secret states:
"In order to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war [World War I] is going to end. But if people do not stop offending God, another even worse, will begin in the reign of Pius XI.
"When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father. To prevent this I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays.
"If they attend to My requests, Russia will be converted and the world will have peace. If not, Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, fomenting wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.
"In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me: it will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
In an interview with Sr. Lucia, she stated: "Many times the Blessed Virgin told me and my cousins Jacinta and Francisco that Russia is the instrument of chastisement chosen by Heaven to punish the whole world if we do not beforehand obtain the conversion of that poor nation."
Critics claim that on three separate occasions in the 1980's, Sr. Lucia indicated, in no uncertain terms, that the consecration of Russia had not yet been performed.
First, on March 19, 1983, she is purported to have stated to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Sante Portalupi; "The consecration of Russia has not been made as Our Lady has determined." At this meeting, she then set forth the requirements to accomplish the consecration of Russia: (1) Russia must be clearly indicated as the object of the consecration; (2) each bishop must make a public and solemn ceremony in his own church simultaneous with the Pope. These requirements are clearly listed in the text of the Second Secret.
Second, in an interview which appeared in Sol de Fatima (September 1985), Sr. Lucia was asked if the Pope fulfilled the request made by Our Lady at Tuy, Spain, when he consecrated the world on March 25, 1984. Sr. Lucia is reported to have answered: "There was no participation of all the bishops, and there was no mention of Russia." The interviewer then asked, "So the consecration was not done as requested by Our Lady?" Sr. Lucia purportedly answered: "No. Many bishops attached no importance to this act."
Third, in another published interview, July 20, 1987, Sr. Lucia again stated that the consecration of Russia requested by Our Lady of Fatima had not yet been performed.
In the face of this evidence, Archbishop Bertone produced a four-page, typewritten statement that the consecration of Russia has been accomplished, which is purported to be composed and signed by Sr. Lucia on November 8, 1989. In the Vatican announcement he states:
"On 25 March 1984, in St. Peter's Square, while recalling the fiat uttered by Mary at the Annunciation, the Holy Father, in spiritual union with the bishops of the world, who had been convoked beforehand, entrusted all men and women and all peoples to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
He adds that the words of consecration included:
"...this human world of ours...we entrust and consecrate to you, for we are full of concern for the earthly and eternal destiny of individuals and peoples. In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated."
"Sister Lucia personally confirmed that this solemn and universal act of consecration corresponded to what Our Lady wished. (8) Hence any further discussion or request is without basis."
Critics point out, however, that Sr. Lucia has never stated that she composed the statement, let alone sign it. She has never been known to type a letter, since all her correspondence thus far has been from her own handwriting. In Archbishop Bertone's meeting with Sr. Lucia on April 27, 2000, he did not inquire of her whether the consecration to Russia had indeed been performed and/or done correctly. Moreover, critics point out that a court-accredited forensic scientist who analyzed the signature on the four-page typewritten statement stated, in writing, that the person who signed it was not the same person who signed Sr. Lucia's memoirs. If so, then there may be a case of forgery here. If, indeed, Sr. Lucia had confirmed to Vatican officials that the consecration of Russia had been accomplished, there would have been no better way to silence the critics than to have Sr. Lucia make a vocal presentation to the world at the time the Pope visited Fatima, Portugal on May 13, 2000. When it is considered that in the Vatican's report on Fatima released June 26, 2000 there is no mention of a consecration of Russia, critics surmise that there is a concerted effort to remove Russia as a contingent fulfillment of the Fatima revelation.
As to why the Third Secret was not revealed until June 2000, the explanation may be revealed in the remarks Cardinal Silvio Oddi, who in the magazine Sabato on March 17, 1990, stated that in May 1982 Sr. Lucia had conferred with the Pope about the release of the secret. Oddi states: "Together they had decided that it was more opportune not to reveal the Secret, for fear, she explained to me, that it might be ‘misinterpreted.'"
Whether the Third Secret would have been "misinterpreted" remains to be seen. Critics claim that the potential of misinterpretation may have more to do with what the subjects of the secret would have done if their identity had been revealed to the world, that is, that they were the villains of the prophecy.
It is not outside the realm of possibility that other assassination attempts would have been perpetrated on the Pope from a mad-men who desired to be the fulfillment of the Fatima prophecy. In addition, the Russian government, in an attempt to answer the characterization of the Fatima prophecy concerning the Soviet's world-wide terror, may have increased its proliferation of atheism and Christian persecution throughout the world.
In addition to the apparent downplaying of the necessity to consecrate Russia, critics claim that Cardinal Ratzinger has employed the services of Rev. E. Dhanis, S.J. to help in formulating the Vatican's explanation of the Fatima vision. Despite the fact that Dhanis has been throughly answered by other Fatima scholars, he remains one of the most vocal critics of the reliability of the Fatima revelation. Among his analyses is his opinion that Sr. Lucia had combined her own personal experiences with the visions of the three secrets. In suggesting such corruption, Dhanis creates doubt with regard to the whole Fatima revelation.
Dhanis also held to the belief that the consecration of Russia was "a practical impossibility." This opinion is most likely due to the political ties that the Vatican has had with Russia ever since the pontificate of John XIII. A world-publicized consecration would draw outrage from the Russians, since it would be obvious that they were being singled out as an evil nation in need of repentance. Indeed, it is no secret that the day after the Fatima revelation was released by the Vatican (June 27, 2000), the former Soviet dictator and present promoter of a one-world socialist government under the auspices of the United Nations, Mikhail Gorbachev, was the honored guest of Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, at a press conference in Rome. (9) Considering his advocacy of world-wide abortion, Gorbachev is the very emblem of the "culture of death" which John Paul II has spoken out against so vehemently. Not surprisingly, no questions were allowed to be asked of Gorbachev at the press conference, perhaps for fear of exposing the moral and social contradictions his presence generated at the Vatican in the minds of the press. This, of course, is a continuation of the Vatican's policy of Ostopolitik, which, for lack of a better description, is the policy of refraining from condemning communist nations in the hope of gaining concessions from them. (10) Critics point out that the apparent fall of communism in Russia in 1989 came at the same time the mysterious typewritten letter, supposedly written and signed by Sr. Lucia and stating that the consecration of Russia had already been performed, was thus generated and made public by the Vatican. It is apparent that Russia's shift from a communistic economy to a world-friendly economy was interpreted as her "conversion" to Christ, or at least the first steps to that conversion. Consequently, there was no need to look for a future consecration, rather, it was necessary to find a past consecration and the only viable candidate was the consecration of the world by Pope John Paul II on March 1984. None of this, of course, can be proven, and thus the critic's claims remain speculative.
Irrespective of the speculation, however, Cardinal Ratzinger confirms his appeal to Dhanis when, in reference to the Third Secret, he suggests that the vision could have come from what "...Lucy may have seen in devotional books." Accordingly, in June 2000, the Los Angeles Times opined that Cardinal Ratzinger "gently debunked the cult of Fatima." This view seems to be confirmed by the fact that Ratzinger did not employ the advice of any other Fatima scholar, except its well-known critic, E. Dhanis, S.J. Thus, the critics claim that the reason the Vatican feels compelled to give only a partial interpretation to the vision (stating that the assassination of the bishop dressed in white refers to the attempted assassination of John Paul II) is that it can then more easily dismiss the other parts of the vision as the invention of Sr. Lucia's mind.
The critics maintain that Our Lady specifically requested that Russia, not the world, be consecrated to her in order to effectuate its conversion. It is true that none of the Popes since 1917 have specifically consecrated Russia, that is, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. On October 31, 1942, Pius XII consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but this was neither to Russia specifically, nor was it done with the involvement of all the bishops of the world - a specific request of Our Lady. Jesuit historian, Robert Graham, writing in the magazine 30 Days, believes that Pius XII did not consecrate Russia specifically because he was a victim of deliberately contrived misinformation. (11) There are also claims that Vatican sources had changed the words of various publications from phrases containing "Russia" and "Russia's errors" to "impious propaganda."
Critics also claim that John Paul II, perhaps by a misinterpretation of Our Lady's message, has never consecrated Russia specifically (to the exclusion of the rest of the world), rather, he consecrated the world three times (June 7, 1981, May 13, 1982, and March 25, 1984). Accordingly, in a revealing remark during the 1984 consecration, the Pope said, "Enlighten especially the peoples of which you yourself are awaiting our consecration and confiding." Logically, the critics point out, if the consecration of the world had sufficed for the consecration of Russia, then there would be no reason to speak of peoples "awaiting our consecration." It is also a fact that John Paul II has never stated publicly to the Church that he has performed the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is only the Vatican officials who have said so.
Further evidence cited by critics about John Paul II's intentions regarding the consecration is a reported conversation he had with Cardinal Wyszynski in 1980. When told that the "most important act he would have to do during his pontificate would be the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with all the bishops," John Paul II is purported to have responded: "the Russians would regard such a consecration as an interference in their internal affairs." (12)
Critics also point out the anachronism issuing forth from the Vatican's claims. If the vision of the Third Secret concerning the assassination of the "Bishop in white" was supposed to have been fulfilled in 1981 at the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, and the Second Secret was supposed to be fulfilled in 1984 at the consecration of the world to Our Lady by Pope John Paul II, then why is the Third Secret fulfilled before the Second Secret? This is not to say that the fulfillment of the Third Secret must come after the fulfillment of the Second Secret, but the juxtaposition of the respective fulfillments certainly raises questions concerning the propriety of the Vatican's interpretation.
Critics point out that if, indeed, the consecration of Russia and its conversion has already occurred, one is hard-pressed, considering the present state of Russia, now and in 1981-1984, to show that it has been converted to any respectable scale. Today in Russia, the Catholic Church is forbidden to evangelize and cannot even set up a parish without government permission, while Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism have little, if any, restrictions. Muslims outnumber Catholics ten-to-one in Russia. Even the Catholic parishes that exist in Russia are required to apply for an annual registration, which can be revoked at will by any local official. Priests and nuns are given visas that last only three months, and which cannot be renewed. Russia today contains only 300,000 Catholics. Just a couple of years ago, the Patriarch of Russian Orthodoxy, Bishop Bartholomew, stated that of the two faiths, Catholicism was heretical. Today in Russia, there are two abortions for every live birth, as the population decreases by 2,500 per day. Today in Russia, there are nuclear arms pointed at the United States and other prominent nations which can annihilate these countries an estimated 40 times over, and likewise these nations can do the same to Russia.
Conversely, Cardinal Sodano stated in the Vatican's June 2000 announcement that "the successive events of 1989 led, both in the Soviet Union and in a number of countries of Eastern Europe, to the fall of Communistic regimes which promoted atheism." Accordingly, in the 1994 book, Crossing The Threshold of Hope, John Paul II wrote on page 131:
"And what are we to say of the three children of Fatima who suddenly, on the eve of the outbreak of the October Revolution, heard: ‘Russia will convert.' and ‘In the end, my Heart will triumph.' They could not have invented those predictions. They did not know enough about history or geography, much less the social movements and ideological developments. And nevertheless it happened just as they had said."
Critics claim that their suspicion that Russia has not been converted becomes evident when one compares it to the apparition of Our Lady at Guadalupe, Mexico in the 16th century. Within just nine years, nine million Aztecs turned from paganism to Christianity. Yet in Russia today there is hardly any voice of Catholicism and virtually no conversions reported of Russian people fourteen years after the supposed 1984 consecration. In fact, there are less Catholics in Russian today than in 1917 when the Fatima vision was given. This problem is compounded by the insurgence of Protestant sects and Eastern religions into Russia, as well as the rise of occult practices and new age beliefs at an unprecedented rate.
A possible explanation for the apparent contradiction in the consecration of Russia and its results is that Our Lady's words, "And Russia will convert," may not refer to Russia's conversion to Catholicism or Christianity, per se, but to its conversion from its attempted domination of the world and its warlike aggression. This explanation is also suggested in Our Lady's remarks that "there will be peace," not necessarily conversion to Christianity. Moreover, even if the Portugese word for "convert" is given a stronger meaning toward a genuine conversion to Christianity, critics would have to admit that this conversion does not have to happen overnight. It may be decades before a genuine conversion to Christianity takes place in Russia. There is no time limit on when God works with a nation, especially since many prophecies are conditional due to the free will of the people involved.
It must also be pointed out that Russia's previous aggression, as predicted by the Second Secret, was fulfilled in detail. Almost every war and skirmish in the world since 1917, especially since 1945 after Germany was decimated in the aftermath of its brief quest for world domination, was influenced and propagated by communist Russia. Whole countries were swallowed up by Russian aggression. Catholics were persecuted to no end by communist insurgence. In fact, many believe that Ali Agca was an agent of the Soviet Union's KGB. These events should certainly be considered as the fulfillment to Fatima, for this type of aggression from Russian is simply not happening in the world any longer. Something has drastically changed between the Russia of 1945-1988 and the Russia of today.
In conclusion, although there are various questions and discrepancies regarding the dissemination of the Fatima revelation, for the time being it appears that the Fatima vision has its major fulfillment in the demise of communist Russia. Perhaps someday the remaining questions and discrepancies will be more thoroughly addressed, but until that time, the Vatican's interpretation seems to be the best one available.
Robert Sungenis, M.A., Ph.D. (cand)
President of Catholic Apologetics International
October 13, 2000
(1) In Portuguese, the sentence reads, "Em Portugal se conservara sempre o dogma da fe, etc." In her Third Memoir, written in the Summer of 1941, Sr. Lucia mentioned the existence of the Third Secret about Portugal, but she had said nothing specific about it. But in the Fall of 1941, where the Third Memoir left off with the words "...and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world...," Sr. Lucia added the words noted above concerning Portugal. Why Sr. Lucia chose not to fill in the "etc" at that time is not known, but obviously it represents that more text is to follow.
(2) Prior to Pope Paul VI's reorganization of the Vatican in 1967, previous popes served as the head of the Holy Office, and thus it was common for them to store important documents within their own quarters.
(3) New York Times, "Third Secret Raises More Questions," May 21, 2000.
(4) One Vatican approved apparition in particular to which the Cardinal may have been referring is Akita, Japan. In short, Our Lady revealed to the visionary: "If men do not repent and amend their lives, the Father is going to inflict a terrible chastisement on all of mankind. It will be a chastisement more serious than the Deluge...fire will fall from the heavens and annihilate a great part of humanity." Space does not permit us to mention the details of all the other Marian apparitions, such as La Salette, Betania, Sister Elena Aiello, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, and many others. Each of them prophesy of great calamities to come upon the earth due to the sins of mankind.
(5) The Ratzinger Report (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1985), pp.109-111.
(6) Stephane Courtois, et al (Harvard University Press, 1998; first published in France in 1997).
(7) Pope John Paul II, Meditation from the Policlinico Gemelli to the Italian bishops, May 13, 1994.
(8) Archbishop Bertone stated that the words of Sr. Lucia, in her letter of November 8, 1989, were, in Portuguese: "Sim, esta feit a, tal como Nossa Senhora a pediu, desde o dia 25 de Marco de 1984," which translates to: "Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984."
(9) For more information on the ties between the Vatican, John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev, see Malachi Martin's The Keys of This Blood : The Struggle for World Dominion Between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West. Malachi Martin also believed that the consecration to Russia was not accomplished on March 24, 1984 as claimed by the Vatican. See also the article "Gorbachev Calls for ‘Central Soviet' To Run Global Economy" in the Wanderer, September 21, 2000. This article highlights Gorbachev's recent plea to the United Nations to strive for a one-world socialist government with punitive and taxation powers to make all nations comply.
(10) Ibid., P. 53.
(11) 30 Days, March, 1990.
(12) The Awesome Fatima Consecrations, Rev. Paul Trinchard, p. 104.
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