The Third Secret Controversy—Part II

Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima with the Basilica Behind

After decades of silence, the Vatican revealed, on June 26, 2000, what it claimed was the genuine Third Fatima Secret. Many were surprised when the text of this version was not a message from Our Lady, but rather a purported description of a further vision granted to the three children at the July Apparition. The Vatican attempted to interpret the vision and put the whole matter to rest. That attempt failed, as numerous critics raised their suspicions immediately.

The 2000 "Vision" Text

The publication of the text was announced by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, at that time the Vatican Secretary of State. It included a commentary by Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now Benedict XVI), and an introduction by his secretary, then Archbishop Bertone (now Cardinal Secretary of State). The text is handwritten, purportedly by Sr. Lucia, on a sheet of paper folded to make four pages. Here is the text as it appears on the Vatican website, but with changes in the punctuation to match the manuscript:


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 commands 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. Tuy-3-1-1944

Questioning the Authenticity of the "Vision" Text

The first group of critics either questions whether this text is authentic or dismisses it as a fake. Criticism concerning the sometimes curious wording is really inconclusive. For example, some find the words "bullets and arrows" to be ridiculously incongruous—but they are really not so. High-tech archery is still very much a reality. Others have found the word "corpses" (cadaveres in Portuguese) to be odd—that "dead" or "departed" would be more natural. But perhaps this was meant only to emphasize that corpses were seen in the "vision."

Far more suspicious is the fact that in Bertone's Introduction, a phrase has been edited out of a quotation from a letter by Sr. Lucia, purportedly written to John Paul II in 1982. We have already quoted this intriguing text and shall do so again from a different perspective. Here we wish to point out the portion (italicized) edited out by Bertone:

The third part of the secret, that you are so anxious to know, 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.'

Disputed letter of Sr. Lucia

Critics reason that this omission is a deliberate deception, given the fact that, according to Bertone's own testimony, John Paul II had already read the Third Secret in 1981 and, therefore, could not be "so anxious to know" it. The letter, they argue, must have been addressed to someone else, if it is authentic at all. Given this deception, may not the "Vision" text be bogus as well? Strange to say, even if this letter is authentic, it contradicts the Vatican position in many ways, as we have already begun to see in Part I of this series.

Further sparking this controversy is the undeniable fact that there are significant differences in the handwriting depicted on the images of the manuscripts, which are posted on the Vatican's own website or published with Sr. Lucia's Memoirs. Allegedly, handwriting experts have maintained, though not conclusively, that at least some of the manuscripts were not written by the same person.

The fact is, though, that there are significant differences to be noted in all the manuscripts attributed to Sr. Lucia, from any given source. One such manuscript, describing the vision in which Our Lady requests the Communion of Reparation on First Saturdays, is even written in the third person. One explanation may be that Sr. Lucia did not have very elegant handwriting, and so various nuns might have been assigned to help her write the really important documents. While this explanation may be true of some documents, it is hard to imagine Sr. Lucia dictating the Third Secret to someone else. Yet, the handwriting of the Vatican's "Vision" text is among the more elegant of all the known samples alleged to be that of Sr. Lucia.

Vision text excerpt

Unless we were to know for certain, of the variety of samples available, which are truly that of Sr. Lucia, it is useless to compare handwriting. But the discrepancies certainly contribute nothing toward confirming the authenticity of the "Vision" text. And why are there quotation marks around certain phrases, as if they were the words of someone else?

Questioning the Vatican's Interpretation of the "Vision" Text

While the questions about authenticity may not have led to conclusive answers, critics are unanimous that the Vatican's spin on the meaning of the "Vision" is absurd. The interpretation is given chiefly in Bertone's Introduction and Ratzinger's Commentary, preceded by the Announcement of Sodano, which is where the spin began. Sodano attempted to prepare the world for the revelation of the "Vision" text by linking it to the failed assassination attempt on John Paul II:

According to the interpretation of the "little shepherds" ...the "bishop dressed in white"…is the Pope… he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire. After the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981, it appeared evident… that it was "a motherly hand which guided the bullet's path," enabling the "dying Pope" to halt "at the threshold of death."… Even if the events to which the third part of the Secret of Fatima refers now seem part of the past… (Italics added)

And so the spin began. The "bishop in white" is only apparently dead, so obviously this must refer to John Paul II and his recovery. Sodano also mentioned the "fall of the Communist regime," hence the Third Secret is a done deal—it is "part of the past."

Bertone's Introduction to the "Vision" text, like almost everything Bertone has done in connection with the Third Secret, is an incredible mess. He mentions the failed assassination attempt of May 13, 1981 and then informs us that John Paul II subsequently read the "Third Secret" shortly thereafter. This was followed by an "Act of Consecration" of "all individuals and peoples" to the "Immaculate Heart of Mary," on March 25, 1984. Bertone attempts to prove that Sr. Lucia gave her seal of approval on this "Act," and that it fulfills Our Lady's request to Consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart. In doing so, Bertone makes reference to a purported letter of Sr. Lucia, dated 8 Nov., 1989; then he solemnly declares, "any further discussion or request (that is, for a distinct consecration of Russia) is without basis." The problem is that the 1989 letter has been proven to be fake. The letter was not handwritten, but generated by a computer and printer, which Bertone himself later stated Sr. Lucia never used. The letter contains a blatant error that Sr. Lucia would not have made: a statement that Paul VI had consecrated the world during his visit to Fatima in 1967. He did no such thing. Bertone claims to have had lengthy conversations with Sr. Lucia (in fact, he comes up with a new one every now and then), and yet he brings forth no evidence that Sr. Lucia confirmed this letter or this "Act" during these conversations.

Bertone then quotes the "1982 letter" of Sr. Lucia, which we have already cited above, claiming that it gives an "indication for interpreting" the "Vision" text. Obviously he does so because it is the only reference he can give which calls the Third Secret a "symbolic revelation." But the rest of the letter contradicts the Vatican spin. As seen in full in Part I of this series, the letter not only links the Third Secret to Our Lady's warnings about Russia, but includes this telling contradiction:

...And if we have not yet seen the complete fulfillment of the final part of this prophecy, we are going towards it little by little with great strides...

This is the year after the assassination attempt; the letter does not even mention it, and seems to clearly indicate that the Third Secret is not yet fulfilled. This does not seem to concern Bertone. He simply declares, most solemnly, that it is all over:

The decision of... 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...

One wonders, if the "decision" could work such marvels, why was it not made in 1960, according to the "will of Our Lady"? Wonder not, for Bertone supplies the answer! Consider this bombshell, supposed to be an account of one of the "conversations" with Sr. Lucia:

Before giving the sealed envelope containing the third part of the "secret" to the then Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Sister Lucia wrote on the outside envelope that it could be opened only after 1960, either by the Patriarch of Lisbon or the Bishop of Leiria. Archbishop Bertone therefore asked: "Why only after 1960? Was it Our Lady who fixed that date?" Sister Lucia replied: "It was not Our Lady. I fixed the date because I had the intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood, but that only later would it be understood. Now it can be better understood. I wrote down what I saw; however it was not for me to interpret it, but for the Pope."

Conveniently, he omits to mention that Sr. Lucia had said expressly many times that it was Our Lady, just as she wrote on the envelopes! If Sr. Lucia really admitted this to Bertone, then she was confessing to an enormous fraud! But Bertone makes no mention of this whatsoever. And of course, this and every conversation he claims to have had with Sr. Lucia, is unsupported by any recording, transcript or witnesses.

Then we have Ratzinger's Commentary, in which he declares:

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.

So again, the mantra is: it's all over. And why should the text be so difficult to decipher? The rest of the Message of Fatima, including the first two parts of the Secret, is quite easy to understand. Why would Our Lady give us a Secret which remains a mystery even after it is revealed?

Ratzinger attempts to supply an answer with a lengthy theological discourse about private revelation and visions. While he maintains that the purported vision is no "fantasy," he nevertheless suggests:

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.

Even the L.A. Times picked up on this suggestion, with the headline: "The Vatican's Top Theologian Gently Debunks a Nun's Account of Her 1917 Vision that Fueled Decades of Speculation" (June 27, 2000).

Citing Sodano numerous times, Ratzinger once again tries to link the "Bishop dressed in white" who "was killed" with the 1981 assassination attempt. He concludes with one more round of the mantra:

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.

Critics were not slow to express their disbelief. La Repubblica, one of Italy's major newspapers ran an editorial on June 27, 2000:

The celebrated "Third Secret" cannot be reconciled with the dramatic events of May 13, 1981. There is no Pope who falls "apparently dead." The scene is another. A Pope killed by "soldiers who fire bullets and arrows at him." It is no use to invoke the language of symbols and metaphor… [The vision text] points somewhere else entirely.

Many critics are convinced that if the "Vision" text and the "1982 letter" cited to support it were total frauds, surely the forgers would have come up with something less contradictory to their position and less laden with difficulties. There are so many problems, surely they could not have simply made them all up! So they maintain that the "Vision" text is probably genuine, and even perhaps the "1982 letter" (though obviously not written to John Paul II). They maintain further that there must be a portion of the Secret not yet revealed-words of Our Lady that would explain the "Vision," just as She had accompanied the vision of Hell (the first part of the Secret) with words explaining its significance (the second part of the Secret). As we shall see in the next part of this series, there is considerable evidence indeed that something is missing.

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