Secrets of Fatima

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Secrets of Fatima

During 1917, three children in the town of Fatima, Portugal, claimed to have witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary some six times between May 13 an October 13. The attention of the public and the Roman Catholic Church was captured by the phenomenon in the sky over Fatima on the day of the last apparition, but as devotion to Mary as advocated at Fatima spread, a second element of the apparitions emerged to also claim widespread attention. During the July 13 apparition, the Virgin shared information with the children that they were to keep secret. This occurrence repeated the course of the apparition at La Salette several decades previously.

For a time, all that was known of the secret message was that while receiving it, the children were heard to groan aloud. Two of the children, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, died in 1919 and 1920 respectively, but did not speak of the message that they had been given. Subsequently, some years later Lucia Dos Santos, who had been the third child, made two parts of the secret message known. The first part consisted of a vision of hell, with an accompanying admonition that the children should sacrifice themselves for sinners in reparation for the many offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The second part was an admonition to spread the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which has become a popular form of devotion in the Roman Catholic Church. Added to this admonition was a prediction that World War I(1914-18) would soon end, but another one would soon begin if people did not cease their offending behavior. The war would occur during the reign of Pope Pius XII. She added that five scourges would come upon the world and that as a sign they were about to appear, the night would be illuminated by an unknown light. Speaking to the three children, she asked that Russia, in particular, be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart, and that a communion of reparation be received on the first Saturday of each month. If that happened, Russia would be converted. If it did not, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world.

In 1925, Mary again appeared, this time privately to Lucia, and asked that she initiate the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary through the Communion of Reparations on the first Saturdays. Lucia began to advocate the Communions but did not tie them to the original apparitions until 1927, when she received a further message from Christ to reveal that part of the secret. She would spend the next decade promoting the devotion.

When Lucia saw the extraordinary aurora borealis on January 25, 1938, she believed it to be the sign that the punishment of the world was about to begin. Most believers equate the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the succeeding Second World War (1939-45) as confirmation of the prophecy. In 1940 she wrote to Pope Pius XII, asking for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and tied the request to the secret received in 1917. Pius XII did consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart in 1942 and again in 1952.

In 1941, she wrote the last of several documents recording her memories of the 1917 apparitions, apart from the third secret. But two years later, when Lucia fell ill, her bishop finally ordered her to write down the rest of the secret. The brief message was sealed in an envelope and passed to the bishop of Leiria. On several occasions through the 1940s and 1950s, the bishop indicated that the letter would be opened in 1960 and/ or after Lucia's death (she is still alive as of 2000). There was great expectation that the rest of the secret would be revealed in 1960. The sealed letter was transferred to Rome in 1957 and in 1960 was presented to Pope John XXIII, who did read it. He also shared its contents with several of his close advisors. Afterwards, he placed the message in another envelope, sealed it, and returned it to the archives.

The non-publication of the final secret came as a disappointment to many who had been swept up into the international community of Fatima devotees. Speculation as to the nature of the secret ranged from the bizarre to the mundane. Some suggested that it contained prophecies of imminent world disaster. Others suggested that it was quite unspectacular, anticlimactic. The idea of the secret was integrated into many conspiracy theories already present about the papal role in secret world government intrigues.

In what became one of the most widespread of reports, the German newspaper Neues Europa claimed that the third secret spoke of important treaties to be concluded in the years 1963-65 between the Anglo-Saxon nations and the Soviet Union. Following the test ban treaty of 1963, the newspaper went on to publish what it claimed was the exact text of the third secret document. The lengthy document referred to the previous secret at La Salette, internal church conflict, and the endtimes for humanity. It suggested that this text was being circulated to the rulers of Europe and helped bring about the 1963 treaty. The article was republished in French by Le Monde de la Vie in Paris and in English in a book printed and widely circulated by a conservative Catholic businessman, Emmett Culligan. Culligan tied his own understanding of the document to the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the predictions of seeress Jeanne Dixon that the antichrist was born in Egypt in 1962. Many Fatima experts have pointed out that this 1963 document is far too long to be the final secret which was written in longhand on a small piece of paper.

In 1971, Ray Stanford, a psychic channel and head of the Association for the Understanding of Man in Austin, Texas, did a set of readings in which the source that spoke through him discussed Fatima. It suggested that the children had been in contact with beings from the angelic realm. It also suggested that the third secret spoke of the assassination of a pope and the end of the papacy. Many Fatima enthusiasts believe that there will be only five popes installed after 1960 (Pope John Paul II being the third). The idea that the papacy would end, also suggested by some of the interpreters of Nostradamus, has become a popular theme in speculation on Fatima.

Still others, relying primarily on statements made by people such as Lucia or those from the Vatican known to have been privy to the secret, agree that the document speaks of the last days but suggest that it refers to a falling away of the faithful and a great apostasy among church teachers. In May of 2000, Pope John Paul II revealed the third secret of Fatima. The third secret dealt with an assassination attempt on a "bishop in white" by an atheist system against the Catholic Church and Christians in the twentieth century. This was considered to be the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Apart from speculation over the content of the Fatima secret, the idea of Mary sharing a secret with the persons to whom she appears has become a common element in more recent apparitions. It was integral to the apparitions at Beauraing (1932), Lipa (1948), and Bayside (1968), among others. By its association with Fatima, the granting of a secret has come to be viewed as an element contributing to the authenticity of any given apparition.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II finally released the text of the third secret. The brief description of the vision seen by the three children in 1917 included an angel with a flaming sword. This angel spoke the words "Penance! Penance! Penance!;" a bishop dressed in white who while in prayer for the souls of the martyrs around him was killed; and an angel who gathered the blood of the martyrs to sprinkle on the faithful. At the time of the release of the third secret, the pope was quoted as identifying the image of the martyred bishop in white as a reference to himself and to the attempted assassination of him on May 13, 1981, which occurred on the anniversary of the first vision at Fatima.

It was hoped by many that the release of the third vision would end the many speculations concerning its content.


Alonso, Joaquin Maria. The Secret of Fatima: Fact and Legend. Cambridge, Mass.: Ravengate Press, 1979.

Culligan, Emmet. The 1960 Fatima Secret. Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, 1967.

Francois de Marie de Anges, Frere. Tragedy and Triumph. Buffalo, N.Y.: Immaculate Heart Publications, 1994.

Martin, Malachi. The Keys of This Blood. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

"The Message of Fatima." June 28, 2000.

Simpson, Victor L. "Vatican reveals third secret told at Fatima." Detroit News (May 14, 2000): 11A.

Stanford, Ray. Fatima Prophecy: Days of Darkness/Promise of Light. Austin, Tex.: Association for the Understanding of Man, 1974.

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