The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima are famous for the three-part "secret" they conveyed. Of these, the "third secret" is the most famous, because it was kept confidential at the Vatican for many years.
Only a few popes and a select few others read it — until the year 2000, when Pope John Paul II published it for the whole world to read.
Here are 9 things to know and share with friends about it . . .
Note: See the first part of this article,
Here is what Sr. Lucia wrote:
In a letter to John Paul II date May 12, 1982, Sr. Lucia wrote:
In general terms, then, the third part of the secret refers to the twentieth-century conflict between the Church and Communist Russia.
The angel with the flaming sword represents the judgment that would fall on the world were it not for the intercession of Mary (and, of course, the intercession of others, though here it is Mary with whom we are concerned since she radiates the light that stops the flaming sword).
For many years it was rumored that the third part of the secret involved the possibility of a nuclear war. If there is anything in the text that suggests this, it is the flames of the sword, which Sr. Lucia noted "looked as though they would set the world on fire."
In Scripture, fire can be an image of judgment or conflict in general. In his commentary on the angel's flaming sword, however, Cardinal Ratzinger seems to allude to nuclear war:
In the 1984 consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the second of Pope John Paul II's specific petitions was:
The seers then saw in the unapproachable light of God a reflection of someone who, Lucia says, "we had the impression . . . was the holy father."
With the pope were others climbing a mountain to a rough-hewn cross. Mountains are traditional places where man meets with God, the difficult process of ascending the mountain suggesting the perseverance required to follow God. The ruggedness of the cross depicted in the vision evokes the harshness of the sufferings of Christ and those who share in his sufferings.
The journey of the pope and those with him through the half-ruined city suggests that the Church must pass through the destruction that accompanies war, and it evokes the suffering of the pontiff in witnessing this destruction but being unable to stop it. This reflects the experience of many twentieth-century popes.
This appears to refer to the attempted assassination on Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981 — the anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima's first appearance.
It shows that he, like numerous other members of the Church, must face the possibility of martyrdom in the conflict between the Church and Russian Communism.
There are, in fact, significant indications that the would-be papal assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, was on a mission sponsored by Soviet Russia.
There are two aspects of this part of the secret that will be seized upon by those who wish to challenge the Holy See's interpretation. First, the killers are described as a group of soldiers using guns and arrows, not as a lone gunman who is not a soldier.
However, the third part of the secret describes one group of people killing another group. The soldiers in the vision seem to represent all those who have been used by Communists to martyr or attempt to martyr Catholics, and those being killed represent all Catholics who suffer in this way at the hands of Communists. The vision thus indicates that the Holy Father will himself be a victim of this violence, though without indicating the particular means by which it will be brought to bear upon him.
Critics of the Holy See's interpretation will also point to the fact that Pope John Paul II did not die. To this there are a couple of responses:
An aspersorium can refer to a stoup, basin, or vessel used to hold holy water or it can refer to the aspergill used to sprinkle holy water.
Either way, the angels using the blood of the martyrs to sprinkle the souls going to God gives us a powerful symbol of salvation, of the honor shows to the martyrs by God, and of the significance of their blood. Cardinal Ratzinger points out:
You often hear people claim this, but no, she did not. Here are the actual facts:
Thus the message on the outside of the envelope said that it "could be opened only after" 1960, not that it must be published to the world in 1960.
Furthermore, it envisioned the opening being done by the Patriarch of Lisbon or the Bishop of Leiria, not the pope.
This still leaves us with the question of why 1960. This was clarified in a conversation between then-Archbishop Bertone and Sr. Lucia:
Archbishop Bertone therefore asked: "Why only after 1960? Was it Our Lady who fixed that date?"
Sr. Lucia's intuition may have been correct, since the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war were well understood by 1960, though not in 1944, when the third part of the secret was originally written down.
Despite the claims of some to the contrary, yes, it has. In his theological commentary, the future Pope Benedict XVI says so twice:
Unless you think that the future pope — who was himself the keeper of the secret at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — was lying then the whole secret has been revealed.
Since the Holy See has not infallibly defined the subject, other interpretations are possible. This does not mean that other interpretations are rational — at least if they depart from the main lines of the interpretation given by the Holy See.
Sr. Lucia herself indicated that she agreed with the interpretation offered by the Vatican:
If she was satisfied that this is the correct interpretation, we should be, too.
Jimmy Akin. "9 things to know and share about the "Third Secret" of Fatima." National Catholic Register blog (May 12, 2013).
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Jimmy Akin is Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to This Rock magazine, and a weekly guest on "Catholic Answers Live." He was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he was compelled in conscience to enter the Catholic Church, which he did in 1992. His conversion story, "A Triumph and a Tragedy," is published in Surprised by Truth. Among the books and pamphlets he's written are: Mass Appeal: The ABCs of Worship, Mass Confusion, The Salvation Controversy, Islam: A Catholic Perspective, The Nightmare World Of Jack T. Chick, and Annulments: What You Need To Know.
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