Old Interview with Cardinal Ratzinger

The other day I came across an old interview with Cardinal Ratzinger that was conducted by the Italian journalist Orazio La Rocca in May, 2000. It was published in La Repubblica on May 19.

Not a week prior to the publication of this interview, Cardinal Sodano had announced the impending publication of the third part of the secret of Fátima. La Rocca took the opportunity to speak with Ratzinger about the matter.

Ratzinger was very explicit: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was releasing the entire text as it existed at the Vatican. We are also treated to the reason why there was not more “fanfare” at the Vatican during the release of the text. Ratzinger expresses his opinion that he thinks the publication of the text will “resize” (redimensionato) the matter of the third part. I leave it to competent historians to decide whether or not his expectation came to pass.

To the best of my knowledge, this interview has never been translated into English. I am happy to say that it is now available in English. It is to be considered as a working translation and any errors are my own.


The Third Secret of Fátima
is not a Dogma of Faith

VATICAN CITY – “The third secret of Fátima is to be resized [ridimensionato]: it, as well as all other Marian apparitions, is not a dogma of faith. The Christian is free to believe it or not, but on these things, it is good to avoid every form of sensationalism. The complete text of the secret will be presented by the first half of next June. The accompanying commentary that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is preparing will frame it in its precise historical context: the link, however, will be confirmed between the attack on Pope Wojtyla from 1981 and the revelations made by the Madonna in 1917 to the three little visionaries of Fátima.”

After the surprising revelation made by the Pope – from the mouth of the Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano – last Saturday in Portugal, on the third secret of Fátima Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, speaks for the first time, commissioned by the Pontiff to present the integral text of the secret, accompanied by an explanatory commentary from a historical and doctrinal point of view.

Ratzinger, dressed in sacred red robes, is about to join the long line of cardinals, bishops and priests who – yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Square – celebrated the Mass for the 80th birthday of the Pope. And the interview cannot start straight from this event [ricorrenza].

“Eminence, what does it mean for the Church to be led by a pope like John Paul II who has reached 80 years?

“We are grateful to Divine Providence for this Pope who in his old age and, if we can say, in his illness is greater and really represents the voice of faith, Christianity, and love for men. He is a Pontiff who is giving great service not only to the Church, but to all humanity.”

Eighty years have been carried well, despite a serious attack, six hospital admissions, several surgical interventions and a disease – Parkinson – that is becoming more obvious. Is it realistic to imagine that the Pope can resign for all this?

“I exclude it in the most absolute way. I do not believe in such an eventuality: in any case, at this moment I would not see how the Holy Father could imagine it even remotely. Suffice to think of everything that he himself [proprio] is doing in these days in full Jubilee: he is present at almost every celebration. I think, then, of his many gestures, his initiatives, his travels. Just think, for example, the historic visit made to Israel in recent days; all his gestures, all his pastoral initiatives of these years have shown that in his physical fragility the Pope is great and is very present in the Church, spiritually and humanly.”

Despite the age and health problems, the Pope is always fully capable of carrying on his pastoral mission?

“Yes, absolutely. There is no reason to think otherwise.”

Nothing and nobody, so far, has compromised John Paul II’s strength and courage. As it has emerged also on May 13 in Portugal, when surprisingly Wojtyla revealed the third secret of Fátima: this is a gesture of undoubted courage. Do you not believe [so]?

“Yes, yes, even in Fátima, once again the Holy Father has shown the world to have a great courage. This also demonstrates how, day after day, his presence in the Church’s leadership is vital and how his courage is truly strong: it’s an example for everyone.”

You, Cardinal Ratzinger, in these days are busy concerning the third secret of Fátima: how does the work proceed?

“We are working and we want to publish as soon as possible all the third secret of Fátima with the commentary and the historical context of reference. The work is going very well. We want to publish it soon.”

Soon when? In a few days? Or by the end of the month as the Holy See already announced?

“The document will be officially presented, at the latest, in the first half of June. For understandable reasons of opportunity, I cannot announce the exact date of the publication, but it is certain that it will not go beyond the first half of June.”

Have you already thought about the presentation of the document on Fátima’s third secret? With a simple ceremony, a seminar, or a solemn Eucharistic celebration?

“No, I do not think of ceremonies or solemn liturgical celebrations: I think it will be, more simply, a presentation to the press.”

Is it possible to anticipate further novelties or other clamorous surprises around this third secret of Fátima?

“No, nothing, there will be no new surprises. In fact, I think, rather, that the secret will then eventually be resized. This is why we should not expect so much from these private revelations that while representing – for those who desire it – a help for prayer, for the Christian life, they are certainly not essential for a Christian. So, I also think it is important to resize these things, not to think of sensationalism, to extraordinary things, but only to the fundamental things of Christianity.”

Thus, the third secret of Fátima, like the other two preceding ones, or the other Marian appearances in the course of history in so many parts of the world, are not dogmas of faith?

“Nothing, no dogmas of belief in matters of apparitions.”

What happened in Fátima or Lourdes, therefore, one may not even believe it?

“Certainly, one may not believe in the apparitions: I repeat we are not before the dogmas of faith.”

Cannot one also believe in the link between the third secret of Fátima and the attack on Pope Wojtyla on May 13, 1981?

“The link between the attack and the third secret is evident, it is in fact.”

To prepare the commentary on the third secret of Fátima, you have also summoned experts from various subjects, theologians, historians, linguists.

“Especially historians and theologians. We are working very well, with great attention and we are determined to issue a commentary that is useful to everyone.”

by Orazio La Rocca