A Message in Three Parts
The Secret of Fatima imparted to the three Fatima seers in July 1917 had three parts. The first two parts were fully revealed in the series of short memoirs Sr. Lucia wrote at the behest of her bishop, beginning in 1941. They concern a vision of hell and the way to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They also concern Her request for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart and the consequences of failing to heed this request:
She opened Her hands once more, as She had done during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls [of the damned] in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons could be distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.1 This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, Who had already prepared us by promising, in the first apparition, to take us to Heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.2 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. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions against the Church and of 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 My requests are heeded, 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, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc. Do not tell this to anybody. Francisco, yes, you may tell him.3
However, the third part of the message (except for the first phrase of it, “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc.”) was not revealed in Sr. Lucia’s memoirs. Our Lady had asked that it be kept secret for a time, and Sr. Lucia was very reluctant to write it down in advance.
The “Third Secret” Written Down
When Sr. Lucia became seriously ill in 1943, Bishop José da Silva of Fatima became concerned that she might die without ever revealing the third part of Our Lady’s message. Accordingly, he gave her a formal order to write down the message, which she did only after receiving permission from Our Lady in another apparition. The one-page document she wrote was to become the controversial “Third Secret of Fatima.” It remains a secret today, despite Vatican claims that it has been revealed.
The Envelope Sealed
It was not until June of 1944 that the Third Secret document, sealed in a plain white envelope, was delivered to Bishop da Silva in Fatima. It was given to him by Sr. Lucia on the understanding that its contents were to be revealed not later than 1960. The bishop was free to read the document himself beforehand, but chose not to, leaving the envelope sealed.
The Pope Makes Inquiries
In the fall of 1952, Pope Pius XII sent a priest, Fr. Joseph Schweigl, S.J., on a special mission to interrogate Sr. Lucia in her convent in Coimbra, Portugal. On his return, Fr. Schweigl revealed that the entire Third Secret has two parts, one of which concerns the Pope. The other contains the continuation of words spoken by the Blessed Virgin. Sr. Lucia’s memoirs indicate that those words begin with the phrase: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved etc.”
The Envelope Goes to Rome
Three years later, in 1955, Pope Pius XII sent a higher-ranking emissary, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, to visit Sr. Lucia in Coimbra. When the Cardinal returned to Rome, an order was issued from the Vatican to the Bishop of Fatima to transfer the Third Secret envelope to the Vatican. Bishop José da Silva complied in 1957, but before parting with the still-sealed envelope, Auxiliary Bishop John Venancio held it up to a strong light, and saw that it contained a single, folded sheet of paper with about 25 lines of handwriting on it and margins of 3/4 centimeter on either side. In Rome, the envelope was placed in a safe in the papal apartments. So far, no one claimed to have read the Secret, but it was continuously accessible to the Pope from that day forward.
A Major Surprise
Sister Lucia had made it clear that the Third Secret was to be revealed no later than 1960. “Our Lady wishes it so,” she said. When asked why, Sr. Lucia said, “Because it will be clearer then.”
Instead of revealing the contents of the envelope in 1960 as originally agreed by the Bishop of Fatima and the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, the Vatican issued an anonymous announcement on February 8 of that year, saying the Third Secret would not be revealed at that time. The announcement went on to say: “…it is most likely that the letter will never be opened, in which Sr. Lucia wrote down the words which Our Lady confided as a secret to the three little shepherds …”
No reason was given for withholding the text, and when efforts were made to question Sr. Lucia, it was learned that she had been forbidden to speak about it and that she was under an order of silence which has remained in force for over 40 years. These developments stunned and disappointed millions of Catholics who had been eagerly awaiting the revelation of the Secret.
Instead of this fulfillment of Our Lady’s request, devout Catholics found themselves witnessing the scandalous spectacle of the Vatican concealing that which the Mother of God had wished to be revealed. The Vatican’s actions caused widespread disillusionment among the faithful, who had for many years been anticipating disclosure of the Third Secret by 1960, as Our Lady had requested.
A History is Commissioned
In 1966, alarmed by growing modernist attempts to revise and reinterpret the Message of Fatima, Bishop John Venancio of Fatima commissioned Father Joaquin Alonso, a learned Claretian priest, to write a comprehensive history of the apparitions from the time they occurred onwards. With access to all the relevant documents, Fr. Alonso began a task that was to consume nearly a decade, and the result of his research would be the collection of over 5700 documents, which would fill 24 volumes of 800 pages each.
Single Sheet Confirmed
Despite the Vatican’s statement in 1960 that Sr. Lucia’s letter probably “will never be opened,” Cardinal Ottaviani revealed at a press conference in 1967 that he had read the Third Secret document. He did not disclose its contents, but he did confirm what Bishop Venancio had determined in 1957, namely, that the manuscript is written on a single sheet of paper in the form of a letter.
In 1975, Fr. Alonso completed his exhaustive 24-volume work on Fatima, which includes over 5,000 documents. However, in a startling move, the Bishop of Fatima literally stopped the presses to prevent the books from being published. No official reason was given for suppressing the work, but doing so was obviously consistent with the earlier Vatican decisions to suppress the Third Secret itself, and forbid Sr. Lucia to speak on the subject. To date, only two of the volumes have been published, both in heavily edited form.
Two Parts Confirmed
When John Paul II became Pope in 1978, he read the Third Secret within days of his election, according to a statement by his press officer, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. However, another official, Msgr. (now Cardinal) Tarcisio Bertone, then Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the Pope didn’t read the Secret until July of 1981. These conflicting reports can be reconciled if the Third Secret actually has two parts, as indicated by Fr. Schweigl back in 1952. The Pope read the single-sheet letter kept in the safe in his apartments in 1978, and then read the second part, evidently another document, in 1981.
Fr. Alonso Speaks
When Father Alonso died at the end of 1981, most of his monumental work on Fatima remained unpublished. However, in one short book approved for publication shortly before his death, Fr. Alonso maintained that the Third Secret refers to a “crisis in the Faith of the Church and to the negligence of the pastors themselves.” He based this conclusion on the fact that, as Sr. Lucia indicated in her memoirs, the words spoken by the Blessed Virgin begin: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved etc.” If the faith will be preserved in Portugal, Fr. Alonso reasoned, it follows that it will not be preserved elsewhere. Sr. Lucia has never corrected or denied this interpretation.
Sr. Lucia Writes a Letter
On May 12, 1982, Sr. Lucia wrote a letter which was made public many years later by the Vatican, in connection with the alleged revelation of the Third Secret in June of 2000. The Vatican said the letter, dated May 12, 1982, was addressed to the Holy Father, but this cannot be the case, because it refers to the Third Secret as something “you are so anxious to know.” This would make no sense if the recipient were the Pope, since he already knew the contents of the Third Secret at that time. Significantly, the Vatican’s own translations of the original Portuguese into other languages omitted this phrase, indicating that the officials who published these documents knew the letter was not addressed to the Pope, and were trying to hide that fact. The telltale phrase could not be omitted from the handwritten original, because it was published as a photocopy.
Tellingly, the same letter of 1982 states that the Third Secret had not yet been fulfilled, even though the Vatican would later claim that the Secret referred only to the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981 — a whole year before the letter.
Cardinal Ratzinger Speaks
Fr. Alonso’s and Sr. Lucia’s views were reinforced in 1984, when Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, gave an interview to the Italian magazine titled Jesus, published by the Pauline Sisters. In the interview, the Cardinal claimed he had read the Third Secret, and said it refers to “dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian and therefore the world.” Asked why it has not been revealed, he said: “If it is not published, at least for now, it is to avoid confusing religious prophecy with sensationalism.” Ratzinger said nothing about the Secret being related to the 1981 assassination attempt. When an account of this interview appeared in a book, The Ratzinger Report, a year later, these comments — about the Third Secret being a prophecy and sensational — were mysteriously absent from the text.
Two Published, 22 Still Hidden
In 1992, the first volume of Fr. Alonso’s critical study of Fatima was finally published. It had been heavily edited, however, and 23 other volumes still awaited approval for publication. The published text does not include Fr. Alonso’s interpretation of the contents of the Third Secret. A second volume, also heavily edited, was published in 1999.
The Secret Revealed?
In May of 2000, during ceremonies in Fatima for the beatification of the two deceased Fatima seers, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, announced that the Third Secret would be revealed. In late June, the Vatican published a text it claimed was the entire Third Secret. This text described a vision in which a “Bishop dressed in White” is killed by a band of soldiers while he is kneeling at the foot of a large wooden cross atop a hill, after having passed through a half-ruined city filled with corpses. This was followed by the killing of many bishops, priests and laity by the soldiers. The document contained no words spoken by the Blessed Virgin.
The revelation of this text was accompanied by a lengthy commentary prepared by Cardinal Ratzinger and Monsignor Bertone. In it, they attempted to impose an interpretation on the text that involved glaring inconsistencies and contradictions. The killing of the “Bishop dressed in White,” they maintained, refers to the failed assassination attempt on the Pope in 1981. Cardinal Ratzinger offered no explanation for the fact that, when he gave his interview to Jesus magazine in 1984, three years after the assassination attempt, he referred to the Third Secret’s content as “religious prophecy.” Nor does he explain the absence in the published text of any of the other content he previously said was in the Third Secret, including references to “dangers threatening the faith” and things that had been said “again and again in many other Marian apparitions.”
Fatima experts immediately raised some serious questions. They pointed out that the published text contains no words of Our Lady, even though the Vatican itself, when it announced the suppression of the Secret back in 1960, referred to “the words which Our Lady confided as a secret to the three little shepherds.” Nor does it contain any of the words implied by the “etc.” Sr. Lucia used to end Our Lady’s mysterious phrase: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved etc.” Moreover, the document’s format, on four sheets of notepaper, does not correspond to the single sheet sealed in the envelope Sr. Lucia gave to her bishop in 1944. It seems obvious that the published document is the second part of the Secret, the part that Fr. Schweigl said “concerns the Pope.” The first part, the letter sealed by Sr. Lucia and kept for so long in the papal apartments, has still not been revealed. Indeed, when confronted on this point by a German-speaking friend of the Pope, Ratzinger admitted that the published version of the “Bishop dressed in White” is “truly not all of it [i.e. the Third Secret].”
An Alarming Context
The Vatican’s handling of the Third Secret takes on very alarming dimensions when viewed in the context of what has been happening in the Church since 1960. Prior to that date, the Fatima apparitions were still officially considered “worthy of belief,” and the whole Church believed in Fatima with the blessing of Church authorities at every level. And it still appeared likely that the Church would ultimately heed the message of the Mother of God. The decision not to reveal the Secret in 1960 marked a turning point.
Only five years later, the sweeping reforms mandated by Vatican II set in motion divisive forces that have reduced the Church to today’s deeply troubled condition. Is it merely coincidence that these calamities have befallen the Church while the Message of Fatima remains unheeded? Or are these and other dreadful events of the past four decades the direct result of ignoring Our Lady’s request, which She warned would have dire consequences?
As Sr. Lucia told us, Our Lady said: “If My requests are not granted … the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and various nations will be annihilated.” This warning now echoes through a Church torn by doctrinal divisions and clerical scandals, and a world ravaged by plagues, wars, entrenched hatreds and terrorist atrocities.
Puzzles Within Puzzles
Two independent witnesses (Bishop Venancio and Cardinal Ottaviani) have attested that the Third Secret document is a single sheet of paper with about 25 lines of handwriting on it. Three others, Fr. Schweigl and Fr. Alonso (who both consulted with Sr. Lucia) and Cardinal Ratzinger (who actually read the document), have confirmed that it contains a continuation of the words of Our Lady already revealed by Sr. Lucia regarding the faith being preserved in Portugal. Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments that the text concerns “dangers to the faith” are also consistent with Fr. Alonso’s interpretation of its contents. These are the facts about the document the Vatican was supposed to release in 1960.
To all these witnesses we must add the testimony of Cardinal Mario Luigi Ciappi, who was nothing less than Pope John Paul II’s own personal papal theologian. In a personal communication to a Professor Baumgartner in Salzburg, Cardinal Ciappi revealed that:
In the Third Secret it is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top.4
The Vatican’s refusal to release the Third Secret was the first puzzling move in a series that continues to this day. The only explanation ever offered for withholding the Secret was Cardinal Ratzinger’s claim in 1984 that it was done “to avoid confusing religious prophecy with sensationalism.” And yet, 16 years later, that same Cardinal claimed that an entirely different — and far from sensational — document was the real Third Secret, contradicting his own previous public statements on the subject. His arguments fly in the face of the facts, and raise far more questions than they answer. The controversy the Vatican has attempted to lay to rest remains very much alive.
- English translation of text in Sister Lucy, “Fourth Memoir”, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, (Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 1976) p. 162. See also Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I: Science and the Facts, (Immaculate Heart Publications, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., 1989) pp. 181-182.
- English translation of text in Sister Lucy, “Third Memoir”, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, p. 104. See also The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I, p. 182.
- English translation of text in Sister Lucy, “Fourth Memoir”, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, (Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 1976) p. 162. See also Sister Lucy, Memorias e Cartas da Irma Lucia, (Porto, Portugal, 1973, edited by Father Antonio Maria Martins) pp. 340-341; in Sister Lucy’s own handwriting there is no ellipsis after the “etc.”. See also Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima – Volume I: Science and the Facts, (Immaculate Heart Publications, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., 1989) p. 182.
- Father Paul Kramer, ed., The Devil’s Final Battle, (The Missionary Association, Terryville, Connecticut, 2002) p. 33.