Accessibility Tools

Return to FATIMA

The Secrets of Fatima

The Secrets of Fatima:

The Prophecies provided at Fatima serve merely as a reminder to people of what they already know – but try to deny. God is Great, God Made Us, Sin is bad, Sin brings us away from God. If we continue to Sin and offend God – there will be consequences. The detail of the prophecies and their historical accuracy should serve as a wakeup call to us all –



To the Reverend Sister THE “SECRET” OF Fatima



(original text)


(translation) (6)

… This will entail my speaking about the secret, and thus answering the first question.

What is the secret? It seems to me that I can reveal it, since I already have permission from Heaven to do so. God’s representatives on earth have authorized me to do this several times and in various letters, one of which, I believe, is in your keeping. This letter is from Father José Bernardo Gonçalves, and in it he advises me to write to the Holy Father, suggesting, among other things, that I should reveal the secret. I did say something about it. But in order not to make my letter too long, since I was told to keep it short, I confined myself to the essentials, leaving it to God to provide another more favourable opportunity.

In my second account I have already described in detail the doubt which tormented me from 13 June until 13 July, and how it disappeared completely during the Apparition on that day.

Well, the secret is made up of three distinct parts, two of which I am now going to reveal.

The first part is the vision of hell.

Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in 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 issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.

We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so sadly:

“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. 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. 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”.(7)

(original text)



(translation) (8)


The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, 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.




Congregation for the   Doctrine of the Faith





As the second   millennium gives way to the third, Pope John Paul II has decided to publish   the text of the third part of the “secret of Fatima”.

The twentieth century   was one of the most crucial in human history, with its tragic and cruel   events culminating in the assassination attempt on the “sweet Christ on   earth”. Now a veil is drawn back on a series of events which make history and   interpret it in depth, in a spiritual perspective alien to present-day   attitudes, often tainted with rationalism.

Throughout history   there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of   human events and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike,   play their part in the unfolding of history. These manifestations can never   contradict the content of faith, and must therefore have their focus in the   core of Christ’s proclamation: the Father’s love which leads men and women to   conversion and bestows the grace required to abandon oneself to him with   filial devotion. This too is the message of Fatima which, with its urgent   call to conversion and penance, draws us to the heart of the Gospel.

Fatima is undoubtedly   the most prophetic of modern apparitions. The first and second parts of the   “secret”—which are here published in sequence so as to complete the   documentation—refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to   the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the   prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by   abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.

In 1917 no one could   have imagined all this: the three pastorinhos of Fatima see, listen   and remember, and Lucia, the surviving witness, commits it all to paper when   ordered to do so by the Bishop of Leiria and with Our Lady’s permission.

For the account of the   first two parts of the “secret”, which have already been published and are   therefore known, we have chosen the text written by Sister Lucia in the Third   Memoir of 31 August 1941; some annotations were added in the Fourth Memoir of   8 December 1941.

The third part of the   “secret” was written “by order of His Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and the   Most Holy Mother …” on 3 January 1944.

There is only one   manuscript, which is here reproduced photostatically. The sealed envelope was   initially in the custody of the Bishop of Leiria. To ensure better protection   for the “secret” the envelope was placed in the Secret Archives of the Holy   Office on 4 April 1957. The Bishop of Leiria informed Sister Lucia of this.

According to the   records of the Archives, the Commissary of the Holy Office, Father Pierre   Paul Philippe, OP, with the agreement of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, brought   the envelope containing the third part of the “secret of Fatima” to Pope John   XXIII on 17 August 1959. “After some hesitation”, His Holiness said: “We   shall wait. I shall pray. I shall let you know what I decide”.(1)

In fact Pope John   XXIII decided to return the sealed envelope to the Holy Office and not to   reveal the third part of the “secret”.

Paul VI read the   contents with the Substitute, Archbishop Angelo Dell’Acqua, on 27 March 1965,   and returned the envelope to the Archives of the Holy Office, deciding not to   publish the text.

John Paul II, for his   part, asked for the envelope containing the third part of the “secret”   following the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981. On 18 July 1981 Cardinal   Franjo Šeper, Prefect of the Congregation, gave two envelopes to Archbishop   Eduardo Martínez Somalo, Substitute of the Secretariat of State: one white   envelope, containing Sister Lucia’s original text in Portuguese; the other   orange, with the Italian translation of the “secret”. On the following 11   August, Archbishop Martínez returned the two envelopes to the Archives of the   Holy Office.(2)

As is well known, Pope   John Paul II immediately thought of consecrating the world to the Immaculate   Heart of Mary and he himself composed a prayer for what he called an “Act of   Entrustment”, which was to be celebrated in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major   on 7 June 1981, the Solemnity of Pentecost, the day chosen to commemorate the   1600th anniversary of the First Council of Constantinople and the 1550th   anniversary of the Council of Ephesus. Since the Pope was unable to be   present, his recorded Address was broadcast. The following is the part which   refers specifically to the Act of Entrustment:

Mother of all   individuals and peoples, you know all their sufferings and hopes. In your   motherly heart you feel all the struggles between good and evil, between   light and darkness, that convulse the world: accept the plea which we make in   the Holy Spirit directly to your heart, and embrace with the love of the   Mother and Handmaid of the Lord those who most await this embrace, and also   those whose act of entrustment you too await in a particular way. Take   under your motherly protection the whole human family, which with   affectionate love we entrust to you, O Mother. May there dawn for everyone   the time of peace and freedom, the time of truth, of justice and of hope”.(3)

In order to respond   more fully to the requests of “Our Lady”, the Holy Father desired to make   more explicit during the Holy Year of the Redemption the Act of Entrustment   of 7 May 1981, which had been repeated in Fatima on 13 May 1982. On 25 March   1984 in Saint Peter’s Square, while recalling the fiat uttered by Mary   at the Annunciation, the Holy Father, in spiritual union with the Bishops of   the world, who had been “convoked” beforehand, entrusted all men and women   and all peoples to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in terms which recalled the   heartfelt words spoken in 1981:

O Mother of all   men and women, and of all peoples, you who know all their sufferings and   their hopes, you who have a mother’s awareness of all the struggles between   good and evil, between light and darkness, which afflict the modern world,   accept the cry which we, moved by the Holy Spirit, address directly to your   Heart. Embrace with the love of the Mother and Handmaid of the   Lord, this human world of ours, which we entrust and consecrate to you, for   we are full of concern for the earthly and eternal destiny of individuals and   peoples.

In a special way we   entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which   particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated.

‘We have recourse to   your protection, holy Mother of God!’ Despise not our petitions in our   necessities”.

The Pope then   continued more forcefully and with more specific references, as though   commenting on the Message of Fatima in its sorrowful fulfilment:

“Behold, as we stand   before you, Mother of Christ, before your Immaculate Heart, we desire,   together with the whole Church, to unite ourselves with the consecration   which, for love of us, your Son made of himself to the Father: ‘For their   sake’, he said, ‘I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in the   truth’ (Jn 17:19). We wish to unite ourselves with our Redeemer in   this his consecration for the world and for the human race, which, in his   divine Heart, has the power to obtain pardon and to secure reparation.

The power of this   consecration lasts for all time and   embraces all individuals, peoples and nations. It overcomes every evil that   the spirit of darkness is able to awaken, and has in fact awakened in our   times, in the heart of man and in his history.

How deeply we feel the   need for the consecration of humanity and the world—our modern world—in union   with Christ himself! For the redeeming work of Christ must be shared in by   the world through the Church.

The present Year of   the Redemption shows this: the special Jubilee of the whole Church.

Above all creatures, may you be blessed, you, the Handmaid of the   Lord, who in the fullest way obeyed the divine call!

Hail to you, who are   wholly united to the redeeming consecration of your Son!

Mother of the Church!   Enlighten the People of God along the paths of faith, hope, and love!   Enlighten especially the peoples whose consecration and entrustment by us you   are awaiting. Help us to live in the truth of the consecration of Christ for   the entire human family of the modern world.

In entrusting to you,   O Mother, the world, all individuals and peoples, we also entrust to   you this very consecration of the world, placing it in your motherly   Heart.

Immaculate Heart! Help   us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of   the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon   our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future!

From famine and war, deliver   us.

From nuclear war, from   incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us.

From sins against the   life of man from its very beginning, deliver us.

From hatred and from   the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.

From every kind of   injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver   us.

From readiness to   trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.

From attempts to   stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.

From the loss of   awareness of good and evil, deliver us.

From sins against the   Holy Spirit, deliver us, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of   Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human   beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies.

Help us with the power   of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin: individual sin and the ‘sin of the   world’, sin in all its manifestations.

Let there be revealed,   once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption:   the power of merciful Love! May it put a stop to evil! May it   transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light   of Hope!”. (4)

Sister Lucia   personally confirmed that this solemn and universal act of consecration   corresponded to what Our Lady wished (“Sim, està feita, tal como Nossa   Senhora a pediu, desde o dia 25 de Março de 1984”: “Yes it has been done   just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984”: Letter of 8 November 1989). Hence   any further discussion or request is without basis.

In the documentation   presented here four other texts have been added to the manuscripts of Sister   Lucia: 1) the Holy Father’s letter of 19 April 2000 to Sister Lucia; 2) an   account of the conversation of 27 April 2000 with Sister Lucia; 3) the   statement which the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary   of State, to read on 13 May 2000; 4) the theological commentary by Cardinal   Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Sister Lucia had   already given an indication for interpreting the third part of the “secret”   in a letter to the Holy Father, dated 12 May 1982:

“The third part of the   secret refers to Our Lady’s words: ‘If not [Russia] 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’ (13-VII-1917).

The third part of the secret   is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the Message, conditioned   by whether we accept or not what the Message itself asks of us: ‘If my   requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if   not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, etc.’.

Since we did not heed   this appeal of the Message, we see that it has been fulfilled, Russia has   invaded the world with her errors. And if we have not yet seen the complete   fulfilment of the final part of this prophecy, we are going towards it little   by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred,   revenge, injustice, violations of the rights of the human person, immorality   and violence, etc.

And let us not say   that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people   themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns   us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given   us; hence people are responsible”.(5)

The decision of His   Holiness Pope John Paul II to make public the third part of the “secret” of   Fatima brings to an end a period of history marked by tragic human lust for   power and evil, yet pervaded by the merciful love of God and the watchful   care of the Mother of Jesus and of the Church.

The action of God, the   Lord of history, and the co-responsibility of man in the drama of his   creative freedom, are the two pillars upon which human history is built.

Our Lady, who appeared   at Fatima, recalls these forgotten values. She reminds us that man’s future   is in God, and that we are active and responsible partners in creating that   future.

Tarcisio Bertone, SDB
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith



At the end of the Mass   presided over by the Holy Father at Fatima, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the   Secretary of State, made this announcement in Portuguese, which is given here   in English translation:

Brothers and Sisters   in the Lord!

At the conclusion of   this solemn celebration, I feel bound to offer our beloved Holy Father Pope   John Paul II, on behalf of all present, heartfelt good wishes for his   approaching 80th Birthday and to thank him for his vital pastoral ministry   for the good of all God’s Holy Church; we present the heartfelt wishes of the   whole Church.

On this solemn   occasion of his visit to Fatima, His Holiness has directed me to make an   announcement to you. As you know, the purpose of his visit to Fatima has been   to beatify the two “little shepherds”. Nevertheless he also wishes his   pilgrimage to be a renewed gesture of gratitude to Our Lady for her   protection during these years of his papacy. This protection seems also to be   linked to the so-called third part of the “secret” of Fatima.

That text contains a   prophetic vision similar to those found in Sacred Scripture, which do not   describe photographically the details of future events, but synthesize and   compress against a single background facts which extend through time in an   unspecified succession and duration. As a result, the text must be   interpreted in a symbolic key.

The vision of Fatima   concerns above all the war waged by atheistic systems against the Church and   Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses   of the faith in the last century of the second millennium. It is an   interminable Way of the Cross led by the Popes of the twentieth   century.

According to the   interpretation of the “little shepherds”, which was also confirmed recently   by Sister Lucia, “the Bishop clothed in white” who prays for all the faithful   is the Pope. As he makes his way with great difficulty towards the Cross amid   the corpses of those who were martyred (Bishops, priests, men and women   Religious and many lay people), he too falls to the ground, apparently dead,   under a hail of gunfire.

After the   assassination attempt of 13 May 1981, it appeared evident that it was “a   mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path”, enabling “the Pope in his   throes” to halt “at the threshold of death” (Pope John Paul II, Meditation   from the Policlinico Gemelli to the Italian Bishops, Insegnamenti,   XVII, 1 [1994], 1061). On the occasion of a visit to Rome by the then Bishop   of Leiria-Fatima, the Pope decided to give him the bullet which had remained   in the jeep after the assassination attempt, so that it might be kept in the   shrine. By the Bishop’s decision, the bullet was later set in the crown of   the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

The successive events   of 1989 led, both in the Soviet Union and in a number of countries of Eastern   Europe, to the fall of the Communist regimes which promoted atheism. For this   too His Holiness offers heartfelt thanks to the Most Holy Virgin. In other   parts of the world, however, attacks against the Church and against   Christians, with the burden of suffering they bring, tragically continue.   Even if the events to which the third part of the “secret” of Fatima refers   now seem part of the past, Our Lady’s call to conversion and penance, issued   at the start of the twentieth century, remains timely and urgent today. “The   Lady of the message seems to read the signs of the times—the signs of our   time—with special insight… The insistent invitation of Mary Most Holy to   penance is nothing but the manifestation of her maternal concern for the fate   of the human family, in need of conversion and forgiveness” (Pope John Paul   II, Message for the 1997 World Day of the Sick, No. 1, Insegnamenti,   XIX, 2 [1996], 561).

In order that the   faithful may better receive the message of Our Lady of Fatima, the Pope has   charged the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with making public the   third part of the “secret”, after the preparation of an appropriate   commentary.

Brothers and sisters,   let us thank Our Lady of Fatima for her protection. To her maternal   intercession let us entrust the Church of the Third Millennium.

Sub tuum praesidium   confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix! Intercede pro Ecclesia. Intercede pro Papa   nostro Ioanne Paulo II. Amen.

Fatima, 13 May 2000


A careful reading of   the text of the so-called third “secret” of Fatima, published here in its   entirety long after the fact and by decision of the Holy Father, will   probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has   stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. We see the   Church of the martyrs of the century which has just passed represented in a   scene described in a language which is symbolic and not easy to decipher. Is   this what the Mother of the Lord wished to communicate to Christianity and to   humanity at a time of great difficulty and distress? Is it of any help to us   at the beginning of the new millennium? Or are these only projections of the   inner world of children, brought up in a climate of profound piety but shaken   at the same time by the tempests which threatened their own time? How should   we understand the vision? What are we to make of it?

Public Revelation and   private revelations – their theological status

Before attempting an   interpretation, the main lines of which can be found in the statement read by   Cardinal Sodano on 13 May of this year at the end of the Mass celebrated by   the Holy Father in Fatima, there is a need for some basic clarification of   the way in which, according to Church teaching, phenomena such as Fatima are   to be understood within the life of faith. The teaching of the Church   distinguishes between “public Revelation” and “private revelations”. The two   realities differ not only in degree but also in essence. The term “public   Revelation” refers to the revealing action of God directed to humanity as a   whole and which finds its literary expression in the two parts of the Bible:   the Old and New Testaments. It is called “Revelation” because in it God   gradually made himself known to men, to the point of becoming man himself, in   order to draw to himself the whole world and unite it with himself through   his Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. It is not a matter therefore of intellectual   communication, but of a life-giving process in which God comes to meet man. At   the same time this process naturally produces data pertaining to the mind and   to the understanding of the mystery of God. It is a process which involves   man in his entirety and therefore reason as well, but not reason alone.   Because God is one, history, which he shares with humanity, is also one. It   is valid for all time, and it has reached its fulfilment in the life, death   and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God has said everything, that   is, he has revealed himself completely, and therefore Revelation came to an   end with the fulfilment of the mystery of Christ as enunciated in the New   Testament. To explain the finality and completeness of Revelation, the Catechism   of the Catholic Church quotes a text of Saint John of the Cross: “In   giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke   everything to us at once in this sole Word—and he has no more to say…   because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all   at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or   desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish   behaviour but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon   Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty” (No. 65; Saint   John of the Cross,The Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 22).

Because the single   Revelation of God addressed to all peoples comes to completion with Christ   and the witness borne to him in the books of the New Testament, the Church is   tied to this unique event of sacred history and to the word of the Bible,   which guarantees and interprets it. But this does not mean that the Church   can now look only to the past and that she is condemned to sterile   repetition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in this regard:   “…even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made fully   explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full   significance over the course of the centuries” (No. 66). The way in which the   Church is bound to both the uniqueness of the event and progress in   understanding it is very well illustrated in the farewell discourse of the   Lord when, taking leave of his disciples, he says: “I have yet many things to   say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he   will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own   authority… He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it   to you” (Jn 16:12-14). On the one hand, the Spirit acts as a guide who   discloses a knowledge previously unreachable because the premise was   missing—this is the boundless breadth and depth of Christian faith. On the   other hand, to be guided by the Spirit is also “to draw from” the riches of   Jesus Christ himself, the inexhaustible depths of which appear in the way the   Spirit leads. In this regard, the Catechism cites profound words of   Pope Gregory the Great: “The sacred Scriptures grow with the one who reads   them” (No. 94; Gregory the Great,Homilia in Ezechielem I, 7, 8). The   Second Vatican Council notes three essential ways in which the Spirit guides   in the Church, and therefore three ways in which “the word grows”: through   the meditation and study of the faithful, through the deep understanding   which comes from spiritual experience, and through the preaching of “those who,   in the succession of the episcopate, have received the sure charism of truth”   (Dei Verbum, 8).

In this context, it   now becomes possible to understand rightly the concept of “private   revelation”, which refers to all the visions and revelations which have taken   place since the completion of the New Testament. This is the category to   which we must assign the message of Fatima. In this respect, let us listen   once again to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Throughout the   ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have   been recognized by the authority of the Church… It is not their role to   complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in   a certain period of history” (No. 67). This clarifies two things:

1. The authority of   private revelations is essentially different from that of the definitive public   Revelation. The latter demands faith; in it in fact God himself speaks to us   through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church.   Faith in God and in his word is different from any other human faith, trust   or opinion. The certainty that it is God who is speaking gives me the   assurance that I am in touch with truth itself. It gives me a certitude which   is beyond verification by any human way of knowing. It is the certitude upon   which I build my life and to which I entrust myself in dying.

2. Private revelation   is a help to this faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me   back to the definitive public Revelation. In this regard, Cardinal Prospero   Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV, says in his classic treatise, which   later became normative for beatifications and canonizations: “An assent of   Catholic faith is not due to revelations approved in this way; it is not even   possible. These revelations seek rather an assent of human faith in keeping   with the requirements of prudence, which puts them before us as probable and   credible to piety”. The Flemish theologian E. Dhanis, an eminent scholar in   this field, states succinctly that ecclesiastical approval of a private   revelation has three elements: the message contains nothing contrary to faith   or morals; it is lawful to make it public; and the faithful are authorized to   accept it with prudence (E. Dhanis,Sguardo su Fatima e bilancio di una   discussione, in La Civiltà Cattolica 104 [1953], II, 392-406, in   particular 397). Such a message can be a genuine help in understanding the   Gospel and living it better at a particular moment in time; therefore it   should not be disregarded. It is a help which is offered, but which one is   not obliged to use.

The criterion for the   truth and value of a private revelation is therefore its orientation to   Christ himself. When it leads us away from him, when it becomes independent   of him or even presents itself as another and better plan of salvation, more   important than the Gospel, then it certainly does not come from the Holy   Spirit, who guides us more deeply into the Gospel and not away from it. This   does not mean that a private revelation will not offer new emphases or give   rise to new devotional forms, or deepen and spread older forms. But in all of   this there must be a nurturing of faith, hope and love, which are the   unchanging path to salvation for everyone. We might add that private   revelations often spring from popular piety and leave their stamp on it,   giving it a new impulse and opening the way for new forms of it. Nor does   this exclude that they will have an effect even on the liturgy, as we see for   instance in the feasts of Corpus Christi and of the Sacred Heart of   Jesus. From one point of view, the relationship between Revelation and   private revelations appears in the relationship between the liturgy and   popular piety: the liturgy is the criterion, it is the living form of the   Church as a whole, fed directly by the Gospel. Popular piety is a sign that   the faith is spreading its roots into the heart of a people in such a way   that it reaches into daily life. Popular religiosity is the first and   fundamental mode of “inculturation” of the faith. While it must always take   its lead and direction from the liturgy, it in turn enriches the faith by   involving the heart.

We have thus moved   from the somewhat negative clarifications, initially needed, to a positive   definition of private revelations. How can they be classified correctly in   relation to Scripture? To which theological category do they belong? The   oldest letter of Saint Paul which has been preserved, perhaps the oldest of   the New Testament texts, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, seems to me   to point the way. The Apostle says: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise   prophesying, but test everything, holding fast to what is good” (5:19-21). In   every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be   scrutinized but not scorned. On this point, it should be kept in mind that   prophecy in the biblical sense does not mean to predict the future but to   explain the will of God for the present, and therefore show the right path to   take for the future. A person who foretells what is going to happen responds   to the curiosity of the mind, which wants to draw back the veil on the   future. The prophet speaks to the blindness of will and of reason, and   declares the will of God as an indication and demand for the present time. In   this case, prediction of the future is of secondary importance. What is   essential is the actualization of the definitive Revelation, which concerns   me at the deepest level. The prophetic word is a warning or a consolation, or   both together. In this sense there is a link between the charism of prophecy   and the category of “the signs of the times”, which Vatican II brought to   light anew: “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; why   then do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56).   In this saying of Jesus, the “signs of the times” must be understood as the   path he was taking, indeed it must be understood as Jesus himself. To   interpret the signs of the times in the light of faith means to recognize the   presence of Christ in every age. In the private revelations approved by the   Church—and therefore also in Fatima—this is the point: they help us to   understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith.

The anthropological   structure of private revelations

In these reflections   we have sought so far to identify the theological status of private   revelations. Before undertaking an interpretation of the message of Fatima,   we must still attempt briefly to offer some clarification of their   anthropological (psychological) character. In this field, theological   anthropology distinguishes three forms of perception or “vision”: vision with   the senses, and hence exterior bodily perception, interior perception, and   spiritual vision (visio sensibilis – imaginativa – intellectualis). It   is clear that in the visions of Lourdes, Fatima and other places it is not a   question of normal exterior perception of the senses: the images and forms   which are seen are not located spatially, as is the case for example with a   tree or a house. This is perfectly obvious, for instance, as regards the   vision of hell (described in the first part of the Fatima “secret”) or even   the vision described in the third part of the “secret”. But the same can be   very easily shown with regard to other visions, especially since not   everybody present saw them, but only the “visionaries”. It is also clear that   it is not a matter of a “vision” in the mind, without images, as occurs at   the higher levels of mysticism. Therefore we are dealing with the middle   category, interior perception. For the visionary, this perception certainly   has the force of a presence, equivalent for that person to an external   manifestation to the senses.

Interior vision does   not mean fantasy, which would be no more than an expression of the subjective   imagination. It means rather that the soul is touched by something real, even   if beyond the senses. It is rendered capable of seeing that which is beyond   the senses, that which cannot be seen—seeing by means of the “interior   senses”. It involves true “objects”, which touch the soul, even if these   “objects” do not belong to our habitual sensory world. This is why there is a   need for an interior vigilance of the heart, which is usually precluded by   the intense pressure of external reality and of the images and thoughts which   fill the soul. The person is led beyond pure exteriority and is touched by   deeper dimensions of reality, which become visible to him. Perhaps this   explains why children tend to be the ones to receive these apparitions: their   souls are as yet little disturbed, their interior powers of perception are   still not impaired. “On the lips of children and of babes you have found   praise”, replies Jesus with a phrase of Psalm 8 (v. 3) to the criticism of   the High Priests and elders, who had judged the children’s cries of “hosanna”   inappropriate (cf. Mt 21:16).

“Interior vision” is   not fantasy but, as we have said, a true and valid means of verification. But   it also has its limitations. Even in exterior vision the subjective element   is always present. We do not see the pure object, but it comes to us through   the filter of our senses, which carry out a work of translation. This is   still more evident in the case of interior vision, especially when it   involves realities which in themselves transcend our horizon. The subject,   the visionary, is still more powerfully involved. He sees insofar as he is   able, in the modes of representation and consciousness available to him. In   the case of interior vision, the process of translation is even more   extensive than in exterior vision, for the subject shares in an essential way   in the formation of the image of what appears. He can arrive at the image   only within the bounds of his capacities and possibilities. Such visions   therefore are never simple “photographs” of the other world, but are   influenced by the potentialities and limitations of the perceiving subject.

This can be   demonstrated in all the great visions of the saints; and naturally it is also   true of the visions of the children at Fatima. The images described by them   are by no means a simple expression of their fantasy, but the result of a   real perception of a higher and interior origin. But neither should they be   thought of as if for a moment the veil of the other world were drawn back,   with heaven appearing in its pure essence, as one day we hope to see it in   our definitive union with God. Rather the images are, in a manner of   speaking, a synthesis of the impulse coming from on high and the capacity to   receive this impulse in the visionaries, that is, the children. For this   reason, the figurative language of the visions is symbolic. In this regard,   Cardinal Sodano stated: “[they] do not describe photographically the details   of future events, but synthesize and compress against a single background   facts which extend through time in an unspecified succession and duration”.   This compression of time and place in a single image is typical of such   visions, which for the most part can be deciphered only in retrospect. Not   every element of the vision has to have a specific historical sense. It is   the vision as a whole that matters, and the details must be understood on the   basis of the images taken in their entirety. The central element of the image   is revealed where it coincides with what is the focal point of Christian   “prophecy” itself: the centre is found where the vision becomes a summons and   a guide to the will of God.

An attempt to   interpret the “secret” of Fatima

The first and second   parts of the “secret” of Fatima have already been so amply discussed in the   relative literature that there is no need to deal with them again here. I   would just like to recall briefly the most significant point. For one   terrible moment, the children were given a vision of hell. They saw the fall   of “the souls of poor sinners”. And now they are told why they have been   exposed to this moment: “in order to save souls”—to show the way to   salvation. The words of the First Letter of Peter come to mind: “As the   outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls” (1:9). To reach   this goal, the way indicated —surprisingly for people from the Anglo-Saxon   and German cultural world—is devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A   brief comment may suffice to explain this. In biblical language, the “heart”   indicates the centre of human life, the point where reason, will, temperament   and sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior   orientation. According to Matthew 5:8, the “immaculate heart” is a heart   which, with God’s grace, has come to perfect interior unity and therefore   “sees God”. To be “devoted” to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore   to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat—“your will be   done”—the defining centre of one’s whole life. It might be objected that we   should not place a human being between ourselves and Christ. But then we   remember that Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: “imitate me” (1   Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17; 1 Th 1:6; 2 Th 3:7, 9). In the   Apostle they could see concretely what it meant to follow Christ. But from   whom might we better learn in every age than from the Mother of the Lord?

Thus we come finally   to the third part of the “secret” of Fatima which for the first time is being   published in its entirety. As is clear from the documentation presented here,   the interpretation offered by Cardinal Sodano in his statement of 13 May was   first put personally to Sister Lucia. Sister Lucia responded by pointing out   that she had received the vision but not its interpretation. The   interpretation, she said, belonged not to the visionary but to the Church.   After reading the text, however, she said that this interpretation   corresponded to what she had experienced and that on her part she thought the   interpretation correct. In what follows, therefore, we can only attempt to   provide a deeper foundation for this interpretation, on the basis of the   criteria already considered.

“To save souls” has   emerged as the key word of the first and second parts of the “secret”, and   the key word of this third part is the threefold cry: “Penance, Penance,   Penance!” The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: “Repent and believe the   Good News” (Mk 1:15). To understand the signs of the times means to   accept the urgency of penance – of conversion – of faith. This is the correct   response to this moment of history, characterized by the grave perils   outlined in the images that follow. Allow me to add here a personal   recollection: in a conversation with me Sister Lucia said that it appeared   ever more clearly to her that the purpose of all the apparitions was to help   people to grow more and more in faith, hope and love—everything else was   intended to lead to this.

Let us now examine   more closely the single images. The angel with the flaming sword on the left   of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This   represents the threat of judgement which looms over the world. Today the   prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer   seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming   sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of   destruction—the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a   certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human   freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the   image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which   nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring   freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction. 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.

The next phrases of   the text show very clearly once again the symbolic character of the vision:   God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of   ours. Human persons appear as in a mirror. We must always keep in mind the   limits in the vision itself, which here are indicated visually. The future   appears only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12). Let us now consider   the individual images which follow in the text of the “secret”. The place of   the action is described in three symbols: a steep mountain, a great city   reduced to ruins and finally a large rough-hewn cross. The mountain and city   symbolize the arena of human history: history as an arduous ascent to the   summit, history as the arena of human creativity and social harmony, but at   the same time a place of destruction, where man actually destroys the fruits   of his own work. The city can be the place of communion and progress, but   also of danger and the most extreme menace. On the mountain stands the   cross—the goal and guide of history. The cross transforms destruction into   salvation; it stands as a sign of history’s misery but also as a promise for   history.

At this point human   persons appear: the Bishop dressed in white (“we had the impression that it   was the Holy Father”), other Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, and   men and women of different ranks and social positions. The Pope seems to   precede the others, trembling and suffering because of all the horrors around   him. Not only do the houses of the city lie half in ruins, but he makes his   way among the corpses of the dead. The Church’s path is thus described as a Via   Crucis, as a journey through a time of violence, destruction and   persecution. The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this   image. Just as the places of the earth are synthetically described in the two   images of the mountain and the city, and are directed towards the cross, so   too time is presented in a compressed way. In the vision we can recognize the   last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution   for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled   the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty. In   the “mirror” of this vision we see passing before us the witnesses of the faith   decade by decade. Here it would be appropriate to mention a phrase from the   letter which Sister Lucia wrote to the Holy Father on 12 May 1982: “The third   part of the ‘secret’ refers to Our Lady’s words: ‘If not, [Russia] 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 Via Crucis   of an entire century, the figure of the Pope has a special role. In his   arduous ascent of the mountain we can undoubtedly see a convergence of   different Popes. Beginning from Pius X up to the present Pope, they all   shared the sufferings of the century and strove to go forward through all the   anguish along the path which leads to the Cross. In the vision, the Pope too   is killed along with the martyrs. When, after the attempted assassination on   13 May 1981, the Holy Father had the text of the third part of the “secret”   brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate?   He had been very close to death, and he himself explained his survival in the   following words: “… it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path   and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death” (13 May 1994).   That here “a mother’s hand” had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once   more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces   which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than   bullets and faith more powerful than armies.

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. It is a   consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the   healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross angels gather up the   blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their   way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are   considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the   cross. The martyrs die in communion with the Passion of Christ, and their   death becomes one with his. For the sake of the body of Christ, they complete   what is still lacking in his afflictions (cf. Col 1:24). Their life   has itself become a Eucharist, part of the mystery of the grain of wheat   which in dying yields abundant fruit. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of   Christians, said Tertullian. As from Christ’s death, from his wounded side,   the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future   life of the Church. Therefore, the vision of the third part of the “secret”,   so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in   vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a   sign-post for man in his search for God. The loving arms of God welcome not   only those who suffer like Lazarus, who found great solace there and   mysteriously represents Christ, who wished to become for us the poor Lazarus.   There is something more: from the suffering of the witnesses there comes a   purifying and renewing power, because their suffering is the actualization of   the suffering of Christ himself and a communication in the here and now of   its saving effect.

And so we come to the   final question: What is the meaning of the “secret” of Fatima as a whole (in   its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with   Cardinal Sodano: “… the events to which the third part of the ‘secret’ of   Fatima refers now seem part of the past”. Insofar as individual events are   described, they belong to the past. 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 in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere   curiosity. 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.

I would like finally   to mention another key expression of the “secret” which has become justly   famous: “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. What does this mean? The Heart   open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and   weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has   changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the   world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world   and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see   and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets   itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has   thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil   no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is   this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have   overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to   trust in this promise.

JosephCard. Ratzinger
Prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith

(1) From the diary of   John XXIII, 17 August 1959: “Audiences: Father Philippe, Commissary of the   Holy Office, who brought me the letter containing the third part of the   secrets of Fatima. I intend to read it with my Confessor”.


(2) The Holy Father’s   comment at the General Audience of 14 October 1981 on “What happened in May:   A Great Divine Trial” should be recalled: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo   II, IV, 2 (Vatican City, 1981), 409-412.
(3) Radio message during the Ceremony of Veneration, Thanksgiving and   Entrustment to the Virgin Mary Theotokos in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major:   Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IV, 1 (Vatican City, 1981), 1246.

(4) On the Jubilee Day   for Families, the Pope entrusted individuals and nations to Our Lady: Insegnamenti   di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 1 (Vatican City, 1984), 775-777.


(6) In the “Fourth   Memoir” of 8 December 1941 Sister Lucia writes: “I shall begin then my new   task, and thus fulfil the commands received from Your Excellency as well as   the desires of Dr Galamba. With the exception of that part of the Secret   which I am not permitted to reveal at present, I shall say everything. I   shall not knowingly omit anything, though I suppose I may forget just a few   small details of minor importance”.


(7) In the “Fourth   Memoir” Sister Lucia adds: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always   be preserved, etc. …”.


(8) In the   translation, the original text has been respected, even as regards the   imprecise punctuation, which nevertheless does not impede an understanding of   what the visionary wished to say.




Permanent link to this article: