On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima
Kevin J. Symonds, M.A.
This presentation was delivered at the 24th International Mariological Congress held in Fátima, Portugal
as a part of the English speaking workshop on September 8, 2016 A.D., In Festo Nativitatis B.V.M.
Good afternoon: Very reverend Fathers, religious brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues and devotees of Our Blessèd Lady. It is truly an honor to be with you at this prestigious Conference in Fátima—the place blessed by Our Lady’s presence nearly 100 years ago. I hope that you find the talk to be thought-provoking and challenging. Our topic, On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima, is written from the heart but with scholarly perspective.
Much mystery, suspense, intrigue and sensational speculation have surrounded the third part of the secret for several decades. Regretfully, these issues have caused discussions on the overall secret to become mired in seemingly endless controversy, resulting in an utterly tragic misunderstanding of Our Lady’s message. In the light of the upcoming centenary of Fátima, I intend in this paper briefly to make some observations concerning these distortions. Let us begin by pointing out the present status quaestionis of the discussions.
The Status Quaestionis–Two Points of View:
Currently, there are two considerable points of view on the message of Fátima in relation to the present. The first is expressed by Cardinals Josef Ratzinger and Angelo Sodano in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s booklet entitled The Message of Fatima. It states that the “events [of the third part of the secret] now seem to pertain to the past.”[i] The second point of view, which enjoys support within the Anglo- and Francophone worlds, holds a contradictory position, namely that there are unfulfilled or undisclosed prophecies and/or revelations.[ii] The tension created between these two contradicting positions places us at a crossroad, a turning point, and the direction in which we go could affect the future of how we understand and live the message of Our Lady of Fátima. In order to demonstrate this reality, let us examine, briefly, the two positions, beginning with the first one mentioned above.
In the booklet The Message of Fatima, the Holy See released the text of the third part of the secret. The text’s general portrayal of the suffering of the Holy Father, persecution of the Church, and the spread of Russia’s errors was accompanied by supporting documentation which included a Theological Commentary from Cardinal Ratzinger. This Commentary discussed the text within the context of the Church’s theology of Public and private revelation as well as treated the individual symbols and images contained within the vision. At the time of its publication, certain circles of Catholics were incredulous of the booklet and immediately questioned the Vatican, believing there to be more revelatory text than what was published.
A particular point, as stated earlier, was that the events to which the text refers now seem to pertain to the past, specifically the twentieth century. Owing in part to events since the beginning of the twenty-first century, many of the faithful are dissatisfied with the Vatican’s position.[iii] They see many ills plaguing the Church and seek supernatural enlightenment in order to understand the “signs of the times” that are about them. Among them is a general tendency to be distrustful of ecclesiastical authority, and to turn to private revelation (I speak here specifically on this occasion of Fátima in this regard) for supernatural enlightenment and vision.[iv]
Re-Assessing the Tendency:
On a pastoral level, one can understand these sentiments as there are many issues within the Church that need to be addressed by the competent ecclesiastical authorities. The question before us is whether or not Fátima and its secret may be used to interpret these issues. Concerning this question, some recent information has been published that affords us an opportunity to re-assess matters. This information is contained in a biography of Sr. Lúcia, compiled by the Carmelite Sisters of the convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, and entitled Um Caminho sob o Olhar de Maria.[v] Published in 2013 in Portuguese and released in English translation (April, 2015) as A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary, their biography is a gift to the Church as it offers much clarity on various issues. Above all else, the biography affords to both scholars and devotees of Our Lady a piercing glance into the interior life of Sr. Lúcia—a noticeably neglected component in the history and literature of Fátima.[vi] As the principal interlocutor of Our Lady and her messenger, it is imperative that the life and person of Sr. Lúcia be understood; truly, a debt of gratitude is owed to the Carmelite Sisters in Coimbra for their labor of love.
One of the more notable events revealed in Um Caminho is the apparition of Our Lady to Sr. Lúcia in early January, 1944 wherein Sister received permission to write down the third part of the secret. This apparition was known to Fátima scholars, but a description of the event penned by Sr. Lúcia herself appears not to have been provided to the public, or at least not in the English-speaking world.[vii] We now possess Sister’s own account of the apparition wherein a most startling fact is revealed: Our Lady ordered Sr. Lúcia to “write down what they [Sister’s religious superiors] command you, not, however, what is given to you to understand of its significance.”[viii] This revelation is “startling” because it indicates that Sr. Lúcia knew something more about the third part of the secret. Whether or not she ever revealed it is uncertain at this time, though we know she gave some general indications in her May, 1982 letter to Pope John Paul II.
These facts have the potential to make scholars ponder the relationship between this new revelation and the characterizations and/or interpretations given in The Message of Fatima booklet. When this booklet was published, Ratzinger stated to Italian journalist Marco Politi that the Church did not wish to impose an interpretation on the faithful.[ix] This fact leaves freedom for scholars who wish to pose—and answer—various questions which need to be addressed. Indeed, we have seen this need, for example, since 2014 from articles that were published first in Italian, then English.[x] These articles demonstrate that immediate clarity is necessary so as to lessen the opportunities for distraction against and distortion of the message of Our Lady of Fátima.
Interpreting the Revelation:
I noted earlier that scholars should ponder this new revelation with the information presented in the booklet The Message of Fatima. How should scholars go about addressing this matter? Along what interpretive lines ought they to follow? To answer these questions, let us ask two things: first, have we truly reflected upon and understood well the contents of the booklet The Message of Fatima, especially Cardinal Ratzinger’s Theological Commentary? Secondly, was the point of view expressed in The Message of Fatima correct or is there room to question it, charitably and respectfully? To both of these questions, let us consider the words of French author and writer Yves Chiron. Earlier this year, Chiron stated “to re-read [Ratzinger’s] Theological Commentary would be more useful and profitable, intellectually and spiritually, than [to] listen to the ‘pure inventions, absolutely false’” of various people.[xi] When one examines and studies the Commentary more closely, a beautiful, intricate world and picture of Fátima is discovered. This world possesses a depth and richness into theological systems and formulae with roots in the Patristic Age. Indeed, a deeper study of the Commentary is necessary.
It is truly saddening, in reading various pieces of literature, to see otherwise well-meaning but (in my opinion) woefully misguided writers attack and misrepresent the Theological Commentary either in part, or its whole. It is precisely this sort of literature which has successfully managed to bind the hearts and minds of many of the faithful into a false conception of the message of Fátima—particularly the third part of the secret. Who among us has not heard some modicum of wild theories and accusations presently available for free on the Internet or elsewhere? In the light of the upcoming centenary, when many eyes are on Fátima, it seems fitting that an objective, fact-based and in-depth assessment addressing these speculations be undertaken. To this end, for the past year or so, I have endeavored to research several areas of note and attempt to put conspiracies behind us and focus upon the truth of Our Lady’s message. The fruit of this research is being organized into book format, a rough bound copy of which is present here, and tentatively titled On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima.
In concluding, I would like to highlight the Apostolic Voyage of Pope Benedict XVI to Portugal in 2010 and the challenge it offers us. While at the Lisbon airport the Holy Father stated that Our Lady “came from heaven to remind us of Gospel truths that constitute for humanity – so lacking in love and without hope for salvation – the source of hope.”[xii] Later, he famously remarked that Fátima’s prophetic mission is not complete.[xiii] It remains for us, as devotees of Our Lady, to learn at her feet, contemplating the Divine Mysteries of Her Son, from the one who “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19) in order to make a place for Jesus in our hearts. From there to go out—as prophets—to re-evangelize a world deeply impacted by the errors of Russia and which is much in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the true message of Our Lady, and is how we bring about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—by repentance, doing penance, making reparation, and inculcating the devotion to her Immaculate Heart (the path which is held out to us at Fátima) thereby opening us to the purity of heart by which we see God (Matthew 5:8).[xiv] May the upcoming centenary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fátima ignite in our hearts, as Pope Benedict XVI stated, the desire for the “sweet joys” of God.[xv] Thank you.
[i] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Message of Fatima. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000), 31, 43.
[iii] Ibid. See also Fr. Paul L. Kramer, The Devil’s Final Battle: Our Lady’s Victory Edition. (Good Counsel Publications, 2010). See also the earlier edition of this book from the year 2002 under the same title (without the subtitle).
[v] Carmelo de Santa Teresa – Coimbra, Um Caminho sob o Olhar de Maria: Biografia da Irmã Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado, O.C.D. (Coimbra, Portugal: Edições Carmelo, 2013). Hereafter Um Caminho sob o Olhar de Maria followed by page number.
[vi] Cardinal Bertone once relayed that Sr. Lúcia spoke of herself as being the “last obstacle” to the secret (Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, The Last Secret of Fatima. [New York: Doubleday, 2008], 80). This remark received some criticism (The Secret Still Hidden, 103-106), but was vastly misunderstood. For more information on the importance of knowing the interior life of Sr. Lúcia, see my book review of A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary.
[vii] Cf. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima. Volume III: The Third Secret. (Buffalo, New York: Immaculate Heart Publications, 1990), 46-48.
[viii] Um Caminho sob o Olhar de Maria, 266.
[ix] Taken from the Q&A section of the June 26, 2000 Press Conference which introduced the publication of the text. Ratzinger stated, “…[M]a non è intenzione della Chiesa di imporre una interpretazione…” (But it is not the intention of the Church to impose an interpretation…).
[x] See the Italian article entitled Novita’ Apocalittiche da Fatima (L’Ultim Mistero: Il Silenzio delle Suore, ma Chi Tace…) by Antonio Socci. This article was published on his personal web site on 17 August, 2014 and is available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. For the English article, see Christopher Ferrara’s article in The Fatima Crusader, Issue 110, Fall 2014, pages 22-26.
[xi] See <https://kevinsymonds.com/2016/06/08/chiron-and-fatima/> (Accessed 31 August, 2016).
[xiv] These thoughts were expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger in his Theological Commentary.
[xv] <http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2010/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20100513_fatima.html> (Accessed 26 May, 2016).