The Three Secrets of Fátima consist of a series of visions and prophecies claimed to be given by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young Portuguese shepherds. On July 13, 1917 the three children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, came forward and claimed to have been visited by a Marian apparition six times between May and October 1917. This apparition of Virgin Mary is now popularly known as Our Lady of Fátima.
On July 13, around noon, the apparation of Mary is said to have entrusted the children with three secrets. Two of the secrets were revealed in 1941 in a document written by Lúcia, at the request of José da Silva, Bishop of Leiria, to assist with the publication of a new edition of a book on Jacinta. When asked by the Bishop of Leiria in 1943 to reveal the secret, Lúcia struggled for a short period, being "not yet convinced that God had clearly authorized her to act." However, in October of 1943 the bishop of Leiria ordered her to put it in writing. Lucia then wrote the secret down and sealed it an envelope not to be opened until 1960, when
The text of the third secret was officially released by Pope John Paul II in 2000, although some claim that it was not the real secret revealed by Lucia, despite assertions from the Vatican to the contrary
In the first prophetic secret, the children were show a terrifying vision of Hell and were told that's "where the souls of the poor sinners go." The vision showed them a great sea of fire which seemed to be located undernearth the earth. Plunged into this fire were demons and souls 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 issues from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke falling back on every side. The flames consumed amid shrieks and groans of horrifying pain and despair. In the fiery scene the demons could be distinguished from the souls in human form by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent figures.
The second secret is a statement that World War I would end and supposedly predicts the coming of World War II should God continue to be offended and if Russia does not convert to peace. The second half requests that Russia be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart:
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 Pontificate of Pius XI.
In the second prophetic secret, the children were also told that the world war that was taking place at the time - what we now call World War I - would soon come to end. Lucia quotes the Blessed Mother as saying: "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 of 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 [of each month]. 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 shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. "
Did this prophecy come true?
World War L did indeed end followed by a worse war, World War ll. But remember, Lucia revelaed this particular prophecy in writing during 1940 which was after the Second World War had already begun. It's interesting to note that Pius XI is actually named in the prophecy. When the apparation of Our Lady of Fatima allegedly made the prophecy in 1917, Benedict XV was the current Pope. Pius XI did not become Pope untill 1922 and regined until 1939. Did Our Lady also predict the name of the future Pope or did Lucia do some prophecy fulfulling of her own?
In the secret, Our Lady said "When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given to you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes." Acording to the Fatima Prophecies, on January 25th, 1938, one year before World War II began, a remarkable display of Aurora Borealis lights were visible across Europe. This aurora appeared as far south as Galicia, and Spain, where Sister Lucy was then cloistered and who was the only survivor of the three Fatima shephard who recognized it immediately as one of signs.
The unprecedented aurora light was accompanied by an unusual crackling sound, possibly caused by discharged of atmospheric energy. Panic broke out at this time in many areas of Europe, as the people concluded that the world was on fire and that the End had finally come. This display of northern lights might have illuminated the night in a spectacular fashion, but even in 1917, after the original prophecy was made, the aurora borealis was a known light phenomenon.
This secret's controversy is second only to the supposed final secret of Fátima, as it seemingly predicts both the all-encompassing World War II, the radical, bloody and extreme anti-religion ideology of the Soviet Union; the proxy wars and limited direct confrontations that would be initiated between the Western Democracies and the Soviet Bloc. Some critics have noted that the "Prophecy" was not disclosed until August 1941, after World War II had already begun. Pope Pius XII subsequently consecrated Russia on July 7, 1952, not long before the death of Stalin and the subsequent destalinization campaigns of Khrushchev, and almost 40 years before the fall of Communism.
Bishop Silva, visiting Lúcia on 15th September 1943 while she was bed-ridden, first suggested that she write the third secret down to ensure that it would be recorded in the event of her death. Lucia was hesitant to do so, however. Finally, in mid-October, Bishop Silva sent her a letter containing a direct order to record the secret, and Lúcia obeyed. On 3rd January 1944, Lúcia wrote out the third prophecy that she had heard as a 10-year old girl back in 1917.
This third secret was written down "by order of His Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and the Most Holy Mother. She then sealed envelope and the third secret was delivered to Silva, where it stayed until 1957, when it was finally delivered to Rome. Lúcia also told him that Our Lady's instructions were that the secret was not to be revealed to the public until 1960. The Bishop turned over the prophecy to the Vatican.
In 1960, Paul John XXIII opened the sealed prophecy and read it, and the faithful anxiously awaited its promised revelation. But it was not to be. In apparent defiance of the Blessed Mother's instructions, the Pope refused to reveal the contents of the prophecy saying, "This prophecy does not relate to my time." There were some speculative rumors that John XXIII fainted when he read the third secret because it specifically states, according to eyewitnesses, that the Pope would betray the flock and turn his sheep over to the slaughter devised by Lucifer himself. John XXIII thought that he himself would be the Pope who would open the door to Satan and that he would be the long awaited antipope."
It has been speculated that subsequent Popes also read the prophecy and likewise chose not to make it public. Now, 40 years later, the complete text of the prophecy has been released, but the controversy surrounding it is far from over.
It was announced on 13th May 2000, 83 years after the first apparition of the Lady to the children in the Cova da Iria, that the third secret would finally be released. The text was published on 26th June 2000 and the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fátima, 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 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." - Tuy-3-1-1944
Many Fatima devotees are not satisfied with what the Vatican has chosen to reveal, suspecting that they have either altered the message or not disclosed it in its entirety.
Since the revelation, the Vatican has been quick to downplay the significance of the prophecy. For one thing, Catholics are under no obligation to believe in the events at Fatima - they can take them or leave them since they are not part of church doctrine.
Along with the text of the secret, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published a theological commentary, in which he states that:
"A careful reading of the text of the so-called third 'secret' of Fatima ... will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled."
After explaining the differences between public and private revelations, he cautions people not to see in the message a determined future event:
"The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. Therefore we must totally discount fatalistic explanations of the “secret”, such as, for example, the claim that the would-be assassin of 13 May 1981 was merely an instrument of the divine plan guided by Providence and could not therefore have acted freely, or other similar ideas in circulation. Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them."
He then moves on to talk about the symbolic nature of the images, noting that:
"The concluding part of the 'secret' uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith."
As for the meaning of the message: "What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the 'secret': the exhortation to prayer as the path of 'salvation for souls' and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion."
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was a prefect for the Doctrine of Faith and is now Pope Benedict XVI, also said about the prophecy: "Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. There is no immutable destiny. In the end, prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies." He seemed to be implying that the prayers of the faithful had deflected the terrible scene warned of in the prophecy.
Ratzinger further put a positive spin on the prophecy by saying. "It encourages us by showing that even in a world which was half destroyed," he said, "there is a greater force and death does not have the last word. At the end of a century and a millennium, we were able to propose this text to humanity and to the Church in a positive spirit. It indicates that we should use the power of love against the power of violence."