Pope reveals the third secret of Fatima

Sister Lucia dos Santos and the Pope

Sister Lucia dos Santos,the lone survivor of the three children who saw visions of the Madonna in 1917,kisses the Pope's hand at Fatima yesterday

BRUCE JOHNSTON and IAN COBAIN

One of the most closely guarded mysteries of the Roman Catholic Church was made public yesterday, when the Pope revealed the Third Secret of Fatima. After half a century of Vatican silence, and endless speculation about what the secret foretold, aides of Pope John Paul II said it predicted the failed attempt on his life exactly 19 years ago. Three secrets were said to have been given by the Virgin Mary to three children in a series of visions as they tended sheep near Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Details have long been known about the first two, which are said to relate to the last century's wars and the spread of Communism. But successive popes have refused to disclose the third. The Pontiff's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said yesterday that the final secret concerned  "martyrdom and suffering", including that of a "bishop clothed in white who falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire" John Paul II narrowly escaped with his life after a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot him twice in St Peter's Square on May 13, 1981 - the 64th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition. Cardinal Sodano said that after the attempt, "it appeared evident to his Holiness that it was a motherly hand which guided the bullets past, enabling the dying Pope to halt at the threshold of death" The Cardinal added that .all the details of the vision would be made public after "appropriate" preparation for the faithful. How the present Pope reacted when he first read the Third Secret can only be guessed at. As the prophecy is cast in such vague terms, however, he cannot have been convinced of his imminent martyrdom and certainly did not hide in the Vatican. Yesterday an estimated 600,000 people gathered at a shrine near Fatima for a Mass in which the Pope beatified two of the three children said to have received the secrets in visions that they described as "brighter than the Sun" Jacinta Marto and her brother Francisco died of pneumonia two years after the apparitions, but the third child, their cousin Lucia dos Santos, survived and became a Carmelite nun. She is now 93. She says the first secret offered a hellish vision with a message to repent - often interpreted as a reference to the two World Wars - while the second issued a warning that Russia, then undergoing the Bolshevik revolution, would "spread her errors through the world" unless she reverted to Christianity. Few people knew the third secret before yesterday. Sister Lucia wrote it down in 1944 when she feared she was dying, and sent it to the Vatican 13 years later.


The Third Secret is revealed...but the mystery still haunts the faithful

The Idiot Children

Secret messages: In 1917 ,the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Lucia dos Santos (centre),Jacinta (left) and Francisco Marto at Fatima in Portugal Fatima

Jonathan Petre

Many Catholics assumed the third prophecy of Fatima foretold a worldwide catastrophe such as nuclear war.The truth,which emerged during the Pope's visit,is at once prosaic and dramatic.

It is not the end of the world, but it could shake it nevertheless. For half a century, the Third Secret of Fatima has been one of the most closely guarded, and most speculated about, enigmas of the Roman Catholic Church. When a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared above an oak tree to three Portuguese children as they tended sheep near the town of Fatima in May 1917, she was said to have given them three prophecies. While two of the prophecies apparently predicting another world war and the rise and fall of Communism - were later disclosed, the third was not, until now. It has been kept in a drawer in the Vatican since the 1950s and only successive popes and a few trusted advisers have been allowed access to it. The secrecy has enthralled generations of Roman Catholics, and prompted fevered speculation, particularly in the run-up to the Millennium. Why did successive popes refuse to divulge it? Was the prophecy so dreadful that they feared mass hysteria if it were released? Many Catholics assumed that it must foretell a world wide catastrophe such as nuclear war, if not Armageddon. The truth, which emerged yesterday after Vatican officials disclosed at least part of the Third Secret, has turned out to be at once prosaic and dramatic. According to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, part of the Third Secret speaks of a "bishop clothed in white" who "falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire" The fact that it apparently refers to an event that has already happened - the assassination attempt on pope John Paul II in 1981 - will disappoint the hardline Fatima devotees and conspiracy theorists. They fervently believed - and will, no doubt, go on believing, whatever the Vatican says - that the Third Secret discloses that the contemporary Church is riddled with apostasy and corruption. For traditionalist Catholics, it is exciting that the Vatican is using the language of mystery and miracle in the era of the liberal, collaborative Church that followed the reforming Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. And the revelations further explain the Pope's personal attraction to the village of Fatima in Portugal, which he has visited three times. The story of the Fatima visions has been a source of strong fascination for Catholics for almost a century. Believers hold that after Sunday Mass on May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared before Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged seven and nine, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, 10. The children, who were initially disbelieved, told their parents that they had seen six visions over a five-month period, which they described as "brighter than the sun" Francisco and Jacinta died within three years, the victims of an influenza epidemic.

Sad deluded old lady

Lucia dos Santos-Sister Santa Maria Lucia- is now 93: her cousins Jacinta and Francisco have been beatified

The prophecies were written down in 1944 by Sister Lucia, who is now a 93-year-old Carmelite nun, and passed to the Vatican in 1957 in a sealed envelope, with the instruction that the Third Secret was not to be opened until 1960 or after her death. at the discretion of the Holy See. Since then, successive popes have read the Third Secret - Pius XII, John XXIII. Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II - and at least one of them reportedly turned white when he had finished. How the present Pope reacted when he first read the Third Secret can only be guessed at.As the prophecy is cast in such vague terms, however, he cannot have been convinced of his imminent martyrdom and it certainly did not cause him to hide in the Vatican. Though none of the Secrets has been officially published, Sister Lucia chose to disclose the contents of the first two. The first offered a vision of hell - said to be a reference to the world wars - and called for repentance to avoid another. The second said that Russia, then undergoing the revolution, would "spread her errors through the world. causing wars and persecution" but that ultimate disaster would be averted if Russia reverted to Christianity.

[This could be construed as blackmail to try to get communist atheists to believe church propaganda. -LB]

Many believed that Pope Paul VI had divulged at least part of the Third Secret during a visit to Fatima, when spoke of an internal crisis the Church and the threat another world war. The Vatican has, however, consistently predicted an apocalypse. Three years ago, Mgr Loris Francesco Capovilla, the former secretary to Pope John XXIII, said in a interview that there was "no deadline of doom" , but he refused to reveal its contents. Over the years, speculation about the Third Secret has ranged wildly.One nun claimed it would reveal that Christ would return as a Muslim. Others believed it herald the end of Christianity.

Pope nearly killed

Brush with death: the third secret foretold the 1981 attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca to assassinate the Pope in St Peter's Square

In 1981, an Australian former Trappist monk hijacked an Aer Lingus jet and demanded, unsuccessfully, that the Secret be revealed. During one of Pope John Paul II's visits to Fatima,he was attacked by a man wielding a bayonet. Perhaps the most mysterious twist to the story, particularly in the light of the new revelations, also came in 1981, when the Pope was nearly assassinated by a Turkish gunman in St Peter' s Square in Rome. The date of the assassination attempt, May 13,was the exact anniversary of the first reports of the visions in Fatima. The Pope glimpsed a poster of Our Lady of Fatima in the crowd and was convinced that she had saved him. The bullet that hit him is now in the golden crown that adorns the Virgin's statue at Fatima. The revelations will no doubt lead to a new wave of interest in the shrine at Fatima, which has always existed in the shadows of the larger and more respectable Lourdes in southern France. It is no coincidence that the Pope, who is exceptionally confident about his own divine mission to restore the Church and in the guiding role of the Virgin Mary has allowed the contents of the Third Secret to be known in 2000, which he believes could herald a rebirth of the Church The revelation will no doubt also add to his own charisma: the fact that an event in his life was apparently foretold by the mother of Christ will increase his already considerable kudos and authority. Bishop Thomas McMahon. the Catholic bishop of Brentwood, said yesterday: "Ever since his election, he has had his eyes on 2000 and the Great Jubilee. He very much wants to proclaim the truth of the faith at this time. What effect will the disclosures about the Third Secret have on believers? While traditionalists will revel in the return to the language of miracles, many Catholics in this country will feel vaguely embarrassed about the event. For them, the story of Fatima and its like is too exotic. The Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Patrick Kelly, said he did not believe that people in Britain would become overly excited by the revelations. He said there was much evidence of people predicting the future, but , "the ultimate test of all these things is whether they deepen people's faith and understanding" . However, Piers Paul Read, a Catholic novelist, described the disclosures as very significant. "They may disappoint some, because they are not as exciting as the end of the world, but they don't disappoint me," he said. "If this prophecy was shown to have been fulfilled by what happened, then it validates the other visions. We must now go back and examine them. It is extremely powerful and it should give people pause for thought."


Why do people believe this rubbish? And why is it published in a mainstream newspaper as if it had any credibility? The future cannot be foretold.Much less by religious kooks who have no understanding of the physical world. Portugal is notoriously steeped in this kind of silliness,and Rome and the Vatican continue to spread their noxious stupidity around the world instilling ignorance and lies into poor and ill-educated people in order to maintain the myth that the Pope is a demigod.The fact that he was subject to a shooting only proves he is just as human as everyone else,and holds no special place in the universe. The capacity for belief in superstitious nonsense is here seemingly maintained and lent credibility by the Telegraph.We can quite tell the nature of the apocalyptic thought via the comment of Paul Read who explains that those who accept such prophecies are disappointed it's not the end of the world,presumably,such people were hoping for a new world order where their silly superstitions are held in regard,as they witness an age of the return of Christ or the fall of what they perceive to be regimes that are "evil". No doubt this is why communism and Russia were mentioned.

The gullible will be taken for another ride and the ground swell of religious madness will be fostered by revelation after revelation,pulled from some dusty closet and rendered forth to the inadequate as a magical portent,and time after time they'll fall to their knees in wonderment at the "accuracy" of the prophecy,even though as the article states the prophecy is stated in vague terms.Of course it is! They always are! It's the same rouse used by astrologers and other tricksters. If you are sufficiently vague about a prediction or state the obvious then you're bound to be correct.The editor ought to be ashamed that this kind of rubbish gets printed in a newspaper.No doubt it is justified on the strength of it affecting so many people and thus is "news".It might be called "news" if Uri Geller starts a million watches working all at the same time too,but that doesn't render the event of significance or more to the point: of sufficient "truth" value to warrant reporting.

In reporting such stories there is an undercurrent of acceptance that A) There is a God and that God rendered Jesus via Mary and that Mary's "spirit" can visit someone,and B) That Prophecy renders valid and usable information. The report never questions these things,it just accepts them as being true,even though there is a great deal of evidence and thought to suppose they are not.At the very least,it seems the writers are not aware of the type of arguments that shed grave doubt on both prophecy and belief in a deity,and in printing a story which fails to address these issues, creates the effect of assuming the negation to be true.

I note that the children were "initially disbelieved" and so they should have been. When,if ever has any of this been subject to testing to find out if there is anything to it? Such reports create the effect of saying "It could be,couldn't it?" The answer in no uncertain terms is "No it can't be, because it's utter ill-thought out garbage"; if people actually "paused for thought" instead of believing,perhaps rubbish like this would never get printed as it would be thought absurd.

I'll make a prediction: At 93,Sister Lucia,won't last much longer - I must be psychic mustn't I? -LB


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Sunday Telegraph 14 May 2000 File Info: Created Updated 5/4/2001 Page Address: http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/fatima.html