By Jim Dunning
(This article was originally published in "Irelands Own" magazine. The webmaster would like to gratefully thank the author, Jim Dunning, for his kind permission in reprinting it here.)
The Third Secret is the most controversial and has given rise to a great deal of speculation. Although the first two Secrets were made public in 1942, information about the Third Secret was withheld. Lucia declared in 1941 that for the moment she was not permitted to reveal it. In June, 1943, she fell gravely ill. The Bishop of Leiria was so worried that he asked her to write down the text of it and place it in a sealed envelope. She agreed, but found herself unable to write the Secret down.
For a whole month she struggled against a mysterious and terrible anguish. It seemed as if Satan himself was determined to prevent her. Then Our Lady appeared once again and gave her the light and strength to continue. She sat down at once and wrote out the Secret for the Bishop, as requested.
The Bishop had permission to open the sealed envelope, but his nerve failed him and he tried to convey it to the Vatican. Rome declined to accept it. Lucia then made him promise that the Third Secret would be opened for the world to read in 1960. She believed ‘its message would become clearer at that time.’
In 1957 the sealed envelope finally arrived in Rome. It seems likely that Pope Pius XII decided to wait until 1960 before opening it, but he died in 1958, and the envelope remained sealed until August, 1959, when it was finally opened by Pope John XXIII. But in spite of the enthusiastic expectation of the whole Catholic world, the contents of the Third Secret were consigned to the archives and a communiqué was issued to the effect that it would not be published.
Pope John Paul II , likewise, took no action until the attempted assassination on 13th May, 1981, after which he called for all the information available. But although he consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 13th May, 1982, he withheld publication of the Third Secret until June, 2000.
The faithful may well have expected a prophecy of doom, such as the announcement of a Third World War, or the proliferation of nuclear warfare, but these possibilities had already been referred to in the Second Secret. Instead, the Third Secret concerns the even greater dangers which threaten the faith and the life of Christians if repentance is not forthcoming. It reads as follows:-
‘At the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword; it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour 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!” ‘(In the second scene a terrible catastrophe befalls the world.)
‘And we saw in an immense light that is God… a Bishop dressed in white. We had the impression 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; 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 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 the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks.’(The third scene depicts the return of humanity to God.)
‘Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels, each with a crystal aspersorium in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.’
The vision described above is far from clear. Lucia pointed out that she had received the vision, but not its interpretation, which belonged not to the visionary but to the Church. We are fortunate that Pope Benedict, when still Cardinal Ratzinger, made a careful study of the text and was able to provide a convincing explanation. In his opinion the message was symbolic and related less to the future than to the past, in particular to the 20th Century. It was not about apocalyptic revelations forecasting the end of the world, as many had feared. ‘The image seen by the three children is in no way a film review of a future in which nothing can be changed.’ Quite the opposite. ‘Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.’
To consider each of the pictures described, the Angel with the flaming sword represents the threat of judgement looming over the world. Man himself with his inventions, such as nuclear armaments, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the forces of destruction – the splendour of the Mother of God whose radiance extinguishes the flames. This is followed by an urgent, thrice-repeated call for Penance, the key word of the Third Secret.
The background to the vision is also symbolic: a steep mountain, a great city in ruins and finally a large rough-hewn cross. The mountain and city symbolise human history as a difficult climb to the summit and a place of man-made destruction. On the mountain stands the Cross, transforming destruction into salvation. ‘It stands as a sign of history’s misery, but also as a promise for history.’
The ‘Bishop dressed in white’ clearly represents the Pope. John Paul II believed it symbolized the assassination attempt on his life exactly 64 years to the day after the first Apparition at Fatima. In that sense it represented a prophecy. As he declared at Fatima in May, 1984, “It was a Mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death.”
Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, however, interpreted the ‘Bishop dressed in white’ as a combination of different Popes, from Pius X to John Paul II, all sharing the sufferings of the century while striving to climb the path leading to the Cross.
In the concluding part, where angels gather up the blood of the martyrs from beneath the arms of the Cross and give life to the souls making their way to God, we are invited to consider their death becoming one with that of Christ. As from Christ’s death the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for its future life.
Thus the events depicted in the third part of the Secret can be seen as relating to the past. What remains is an exhortation to prayer and a summons to penance and conversion. Another key expression of the Secret as a whole: ‘My Immaculate Heart will triumph’. If Our Lady of the Rosary could foresee her eventual triumph, she would equally have known in 1917 that the Third Secret would not be published till the end of the Century. Could it be that she deliberately kept us waiting in order to make a bigger impact? That is one ‘secret’ we shall never uncover.
|Sr Lucia dos Santos of Fatima|
For more information on the children of Fatima, see Sister Lucia dos Santos and also Blessed Jacinta Marto and also Blessed Francisco Marto
-Jim Dunning lives in the United Kingdom. His hobbies include watching rugby and writing short stories and religious articles.