The secret of Fatima

February 27 2003 | by

IN RECENT MONTHS we have looked at the story surrounding the extraordinary apparitions of Our Lady which took place in Portugal in 1917. However, we have chosen to pass over one particular aspect of that event: the famous ‘third secret of Fatima’ which has aroused and continues to arouse so much curiosity.
This series of articles has examined briefly the course of events surrounding the apparitions, the short lives of the two young prophets whose own premature deaths were foretold by Our Lady of Fatima, and the life of Sister Lucia, the only one of the three
   prophets still living. But since the so-called ‘third secret of Fatima’ made such a great impression on religious life in the twentieth century, it seems opportune to examine it, at least as far as what little we know will allow it. Everyone has heard about this secret, and thousands of pages have been written about it.
The numerous so-called ‘indiscretions’ regarding the true message of this secret have always called terrifying events and apocalyptic consequences to mind. Since people know that all the predictions made by Our Lady at Fatima have regularly come to pass, fear and dismay have ever accompanied the writings and speeches connected to the last part of the secret.

The first two parts

That famous ‘third secret of Fatima’ is really just the ‘third part’ of a secret which Our Lady passed on to the three prophets. The first concerned the earthly destiny of Francisco and Jacinta. Our Lady had said that she would soon take the two young shepherds to paradise, whereas Lucia would remain on earth for many years to spread devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. This prediction has come true: Francisco died in 1919, Jacinta in 1920, while Lucia is still alive, today aged 93.
The second part concerned a vision of hell, and the dramatic political vicissitudes which would take place, above all in Europe. Our Lady told the three young shepherds that the First World War, at its height at the time of the apparitions, would soon be over but that, during the Papacy of Pius XI, a second, even more terrible war would arrive, heralded by a great and previously unknown light. She also said that Russia would spread its atheist ideology throughout the world, promoting wars and persecution against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will suffer a great deal, several nations will be wiped out, but in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.

Russia’s ‘conversion’

When, in July 1917, Our Lady spoke of Russia, the Bolshevik revolution which brought the communists to power had not yet taken place. Many years later, Lucia was asked whether she was quite sure that Our Lady had talked about Russia by name. She replied: I had heard people talking about the Spanish and the Gauls, but I knew nothing of other countries. I am certain that, at the apparition in July 1917, our Lady explicitly mentioned Russia.
As a child of ten years old, Lucia could not have known what was meant by the atheist ideology of Marxism, nor could she imagine that, in the name of that ideology, terrible persecution would be visited on the Church, several nations would be wiped out and the good would be martyred. Today we know that this ideology, defined by Pius XI as the greatest heresy of all time, not only spread rapidly across the world, bringing hatred and revolution, but also that it was, in the end, a failure in political terms, and led to the social and economic ruin of many states. We know too that it sowed death and bloodshed. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian writer, has said that the Communist regime in the Soviet Union wiped out several million people whose only ‘crime’ was that of having religious faith.

The third secret

During that apparition of 13 July, Our Lady made other revelations which Sister Lucia has never made public. These revelations are considered ‘the third secret of Fatima’ which has not yet been revealed to the public.In 1927, Our Lady instructed Lucia to reveal the first and second parts of the secret, but it was only in 1944 that she gave the Carmelite nun permission to speak of the third part - not to reveal it to the world, but to send a   

detailed report to the Pope, and let him decide whether the secret should be made public or not.
At the time Lucia was in the convent of Tuy, in Spain. On 17 June she sent her report in a sealed envelope to Monsignor José Alves Correia da Silva, who in turn sent it on to the Vatican. The report was accompanied by a letter in which Lucia affirmed that Our Lady had given instructions that the secret could only be revealed after 1960. For two years her report remained in the possession of Pope Pius XII, who must certainly have read it. After that the Pope gave it to the Prefect of the Holy office, to be kept under lock and key until the date indicated.
In the summer of 1959, John XXIII, who had succeeded Pius XII, asked if he could read the famous secret in order to decide whether it could be divulged. The sealed envelope was delivered to him while he was in the Papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo. He read the contents with the aid of a translator and in the presence of his own personal secretary, Monsignor Loris Capovilla, and Cardinal Ottaviani, the prefect of the Holy Office.

Keeping it in the dark

The Pope was profoundly struck by what he came to know. He consulted his advisers, and in the end decided not to render public the information contained in Lucia’s report. Why? Was he frightened? Did he think that if he made public what is known as the ‘third secret of Fatima, it would cause panic among the people? We do not know.

In 1963, Pope Montini (Paul VI) ascended to the throne of Saint Peter, and he too, having examined the secret, decided not to make it public. Pope John Paul II did the same in 1978. And it was precisely this continuing refusal to render the document public which exasperated people’s curiosity. Indiscretions, conjecture and rumours began to abound. People began talking about nuclear war, and the destruction of the world.
I have tried many times to ask Sister Lucia about the content of the third secret, said Fr. José Valinho, a Salesian priest and nephew of Sister Lucia, whom we have quoted many times in this series of articles on Fatima. But each time, my aunt changed the subject. She has admitted some things explicitly, but she has never given any attention to the apocalyptic rumours found in some publications. To me she has always spoken optimistically about the future. She has always said that there is much evil in the world, that Satan is destroying many souls, but she always added that the goodness and mercy of God are stronger than any evil, and that they will triumph in the end.
Since Fr. Valinho meets his aunt two or three times a month, we asked him if he has formed his own opinion about the third part of the secret. Yes, he replied, I do have my own ideas, but they could be completely wrong. I believe that part of the secret regards the Church and its internal running; perhaps doctrinal difficulties, a crisis of unity, fragmentation, divisions. The part of my aunt’s writing which precedes the undisclosed part of the secret says: ‘In Portugal, the principles of the faith will always be preserved’. This sentence gives us an indication that the missing part could in some way be related to it. Therefore, in other parts of the Church, these principles could be shaken. But these are just suppositions. And I also think that, in the light of what has happened, the secret may well hint at the events surrounding the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in May 1981.

Our Lady’s crown

On important feast days, a crown is placed on the head of the statue of Our Lady which stands on the site of the apparitions in Fatima, a symbol that Our Lady is the Queen of Portugal and the world. It is a special, very precious crown. Made of gold, it weighs 1.2 kg and is encrusted with 313 pearls and 2,676 precious stones. It was offered by the women of Portugal.

In 1982, another adornment was added to that crown. It is not made from a precious substance but, for the mysterious and enigmatic significance which it holds, it is without doubt the most precious jewel in the collection. It is the bullet which was meant to kill Karol Wojtyla, one of the calibre 9 bullets fired at Pope John Paul II by the Turk Ali Agca in Saint Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. The bullet tore through the Pontiff’s flesh before exiting his body and falling inside the Jeep in which the Pope was sitting. That bullet can now be seen in the middle of Our Lady’s crown. Its darkness and opacity is an almost threatening contrast to the brilliantly shining pearls and precious stones beside it. When the crown is placed on the statue’s head, the bullet lies just a couple of centimetres from Our Lady’s head. But today this instrument of death is harmless; it has lost its sting.
When we look at that bullet and remember what it symbolises, it is impossible not to think of an uncanny coincidence. On 13 May, 1917, in Fatima, the apparitions of Our Lady began; on 13 May, 1981, Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt in Rome.

Ali’s assassination attempt

The would-be assassin, a young Turk 23 years of age named Ali Agca, had aimed to kill, two shots fired from a distance of six metres. One bullet had injured the Pope’s left arm, the other had hit his left index finger and then penetrated his abdomen.
In the operating theatre, things looked grim for Pope John Paul II. His blood pressure had fallen dramatically, and his pulse was almost imperceptible. The Pope’s personal secretary, don Stanislaw Dsiwisz, gave him the Last Rites. When Professor Francesco Crucitti, the chief surgeon at the hospital, made an incision with his scalpel, a huge quantity of blood flowed from the Pope. He had lost 60 per cent of his blood due to internal injuries.
The operation lasted five hours and twenty minutes. Half a metre of the Pope’s intestine was removed. And while doctors struggled to stem the damage caused by the bullet, they realised that a ‘miracle’ had occurred. The bullet had taken a totally unorthodox trajectory. It was as though it had been guided to avoid all the Pope’s vital organs. It had passed a few millimetres from his aorta and narrowly missed his spinal column. If it had hit the aorta the Pope would have died, if it had touched his spinal cord he would have been paralysed. But this had not happened. The bullet had caused no permanent damage.

As the Pope later affirmed: One hand shot the pistol, another guided the bullet. Ever since the event Pope John Paul II has always been convinced that it was the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima which saved his life, and ever since then, his interest in and devotion to Fatima have grown.
In the meantime, the would-be assassin had been arrested. The Italian magistrates and the secret services of a number of countries made investigations as to who was behind Ali Agca. They were certain that the young Turk had not acted alone. But who had armed him? The Turks? The Bulgarians? The Soviet Union? The Pope never wanted to know anything about it.
Sunday came four days after the  assassination attempt. Through a loudspeaker, the Pope spoke to well-wishers in front of the hospital where he was being treated. Referring to his attacker he said: I pray for the man who shot me. He is my brother and I have truly forgiven him. He never took an interest in the investigations or in Ali Agca’s trial. To a friend of his, the Polish cardinal Andrej Deskur, who asked why he showed such a lack of interest in the matter he replied: It was Evil itself which committed that action. Evil can spread in thousands of ways, none of which interests me.
In December 1983, two and a half years after the assassination attempt, John Paul II went to the prison to visit the man who had tried to kill him. Ali Agca asked, astounded: How is it that you’re not dead? I know my aim was true. I know the bullet was lethal. Why aren’t you dead? What are these things that they say about Fatima?
The Pope certainly replied to his attacker’s questions, but we do not know what he said. But when he spoke to journalists later, Ali Agca affirmed: The Pope knows the whole story. And later on, at his trial, he asked that the Vatican make public the secret of Fatima, which indicates that he believes part of the secret itself to contain the explanation for the attack.
But naturally the secret was not made public, and so it is still a secret today. Pope John Paul II, apparently mortally wounded on May 13, 1981, decided to make the pilgrimage to Fatima on May 13, 1982 and on the same day in 1991. Furthermore, it was he who decided that the beatification of the two young witnesses to Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, should take place in Fatima on May 13, 2000. All of which might make one think that, in the mysterious predictions which Our Lady made in July 1917, a not inconsiderable part was reserved for a future Pope, John Paul II.

Updated on October 06 2016