There is Little to Joke About in the Three Secrets of Fatima
The following is an unofficial translation of an address given by His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Amato at the Pontifical University Antonianum on the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal. The address was published in Italian on the web site of L’Osservatore Romano from which this translation was made.
1. When I was the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I had the privilege to have in hand and read original manuscripts regarding the secrets of Fatima and their message. I have pondered them for a long time because they cast a light of faith and hope on the sad events of the last century and beyond.
Recall that the twentieth century, predicted as a time dominated by reason and brotherhood among peoples, was, in fact, a tragic period for Christianity, persecuted and oppressed in many parts of the world. Without considering the two World Wars, the most tragic stations of this evangelical Via Cruciswere sequentially the Armenian genocide, the Mexican repression, the Spanish persecution, the Nazi massacres, Communist slaughter, and, in this first part of the third millennium, Islamist persecution. There are millions of victims of malignant ideologies, which have generated and generate more conflicts, hatreds and divisions.
How often says Pope Francis, the Church today is the church of martyrs, of those Christians who, unarmed, are routinely killed solely for hatred to their unwavering faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The message of Fatima, in a visionary way, evokes this drama, lifting the veil on concrete historical events, where the benevolent Providence of God is opposed to the malicious will of evil that dwells within the enemy of good who dared to tempt Jesus and continues to tempt Jesus’ holy Church today, instilling feelings of enmity and death in the hearts of humans.
Fatima, with its famous secret, is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions, with specific references to wars, divisions, and tragedies.
2. The secret is composed of three parts. I must say that there is no fourth secret nor are there other hidden secrets. The first two parts were written by Sister Lucia, one of the three seers of Fatima in 1941 (with some additions made in 1951). These parts have been published and known.
What is it? These first parts contain the vision of hell, described as a great underground sea of fire, in which were immersed demons and souls emitting shrieks and groans of pain and despair, that horrified and made [the seers] tremble with fear.
The vision is accompanied by the words of the Madonna that, to save the souls of sinners, she issues an invitation to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
There is also mention of the Second World War, the request for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation of the First Saturdays: “If my requests are heeded,” says the Blessed Virgin, “Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated. Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted and the world will be granted a period of peace.”
3. The third part of the secret, also written by Sister Lucia on January 3, 1944, “by order of the Bishop of Leiria and the Most Holy Mother,” was not published. At the behest of Sister Lucia it could be opened only after 1960, because then it might be better understood. This is why this part was kept at first by the Bishop of Leiria and then, from April 4, 1957, kept at the Secret Archives of the then Holy Office. In 1959, the envelope containing the third part of the secret was brought to Pope John XXIII, who decided not to reveal the contents. A few years later, on March 27, 1965, Pope Paul VI read the contents and also decided not to reveal the text and returned the envelope to the Holy Office.
4. Pope John Paul II, after the attack of May 13, 1981, requested and read the third part of the secret. For the Polish Pope, it was the turning point of his pontificate. In fact, he made Mary’s presence the compass of the Church’s pilgrimage in history. It was the extraordinary realism of the prophetic apparitions of Fatima that struck Pope Wojtyła, who, in 1994, reflecting on the example of the unexpected collapse of Marxism in Eastern Europe, said:
“And what are we to say of the three children of Fatima who suddenly, on the eve of the outbreak of the October Revolution [in 1917], 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.”
And to confirm his conviction, the Pope added that “it was necessary for the assassination attempt to be made in St. Peter’s Square precisely on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima—so that all could become more transparent and comprehensible, so that the voice of God which speaks in human history through the “signs of the times” could be more easily heard and understood.”
5. After reading the third part, Pope John Paul II immediately thought of consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, preparing himself an act of trust, which was celebrated on June 7, 1981 in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. This act was repeated by him in Fatima on May 13, 1982. On March 25, 1984, in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope in spiritual union with all the bishops of the world, previously convoked, again entrusted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all men and peoples. This solemn and universal act of consecration was, in a letter from Sister Lucia dated November 8, 1989, considered as corresponding to the will of Our Lady.
6. On May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul II, speaking through Cardinal Angelo Sodano, expressed the will to make public the third part of the secret, entrusting the content and an initial interpretation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This part was revealed to the little shepherds on July 13, 1917 in the Cova da Iria (Fatima). Here is the content, as it was written by Sister Lucia on January 3, 1944 and published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the year 2000:
“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 splendour 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 had 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 and 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 his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”
7. In an interview that took place in April, 2000 and which was willed and approved by the Pope, Msgr. Tarcisio Bertone, who was then Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked Sister Lucia for some clarifications.
The first [clarification] concerns the literary genre of the vision. First of all, the seer “agreed with the interpretation that the third part of the ‘secret’ was a prophetic vision, similar to those in sacred history.” She repeated her conviction that the vision of Fatima concerns above all the struggle of atheistic Communism against the Church and against Christians, and describes the terrible sufferings of the victims of the faith in the twentieth century.
When asked: “Is the principal figure in the vision the Pope?”, Sister Lucia replied at once that it was, adding: “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.”
About the Pope who, shot to death and falls to the ground, Sister Lucia, referring to Mary’s protection in the confrontation of John Paul II, was in full agreement with the Pope’s claim 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”
8. In a comment to the above, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that Fatima helps us “to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith.” The same Cardinal then offered some lines of interpretation of the “secret.”
As for the first part, he was to note that the children have a vision of hell. That their exposure to this terrible scene takes place to save souls through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With this, the Lady means to invite [people] to have an attitude of faith and obedience to God.
Then, the Cardinal believed that the key to the secret is the cry: “Penance, Penance, Penance!”
Moving on to illustrate the individual images, Ratzinger affirms that the angel with the flaming sword is the looming threat of judgment on the world, which could be incinerated in a sea of fire prepared by man himself, with his inventions of death.
The second image, in contrast to the first, shows that the force that opposes the destruction is the splendor of the Mother of God. The scenario, then, is the free choice of man between good and evil: “the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed.”
The meaning of the vision is, then, to arouse the forces of good that are always in time to fight the powers of evil.
The vision, then, of the city in ruins, of people among the corpses walking toward the cross, of the Bishop dressed in white (“we had the impression that it was the Holy Father”) describes the Via Crucis of the Church in the twentieth century, a period of persecution, suffering extreme martyrdom. In addition, the Bishop dressed in white can recall several popes, beginning with Pius X to John Paul II.
Concerning the vision of the Pope who is killed along with the martyrs, Cardinal Ratzinger asks: “When, after the attempted assassination on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father had the text of the third part of the “secret” brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate?”
The maternal hand, which diverted the bullet without killing the Pope, indicates that there is no immutable destiny and that the power of faith and prayer can influence history: prayer is more powerful than the bullets of a gun.
The vision ends with the Angels, sprinkling souls with the blood of Christ Crucified, indicating that the martyrdom of the witnesses to the faith is carried out in solidarity with the passion of Christ and becomes one with it. The blood of the martyrs, as well as the blood of Christ, makes the Church fruitful. They are accents of hope. From the blood of Christ and the witness of the martyrs comes a renewing force that is continually rejuvenating the Church.