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Celebrating the Centennial

Our Lady of Fatima’s 100th Anniversary

Today is the great 100th Anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, Portugal — a perfect time to stop for a moment and recall to mind and ponder the great events that took place during the incredibly momentous year of 1917. What follows is a brief historical review, and then a list of resources at the end.

Our Lady of Fatima: A Brief Overview

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three little shepherd children at a field called Cova da Iria at Fatima for a total of six different times, between May 13 and October 13, 1917. Although no Catholic is obliged to accept these apparitions as genuine, the Catholic Church judged them to be worthy of belief in 1930, and Popes Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII all gave their approval in some form or another.

On May 5, 1917, Pope Benedict XV had published a pastoral letter in which he directed his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, that the Litany of Loreto henceforth include an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title “Queen of Peace” (Regina Pacis), so “that her most tender and benign solicitude may be moved and the peace we ask for be obtained for our agitated world” (Letter Il 27 Aprile 1915, par. 6). Europe was suffering greatly under the destructive force of the “Great War” (later to be named “World War I”), which had begun in 1914 during the last days of the pontificate of Pope Saint Pius X.

On May 13, 1917 — a mere eight days after Pope Benedict’s directive to add “Queen of Peace, pray for us” to the Litany of Loreto –, the Virgin Mary appeared for the first time at Fatima to Lucia dos Santos, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 8 and 7, respectively, to begin to reveal to them what has since been known as the “Fatima message”. Our Lady told the children that she would continue to appear to them on the 13th day of every month in the same place, and she did.

A beautiful documentary, made in the late 1940s, explains and illustrates the events at Fatima in 1917. It can be watched here:

(ignore the commentary at the very end)

On July 13, the Virgin Mary entrusted to the children a secret consisting of three parts, which she asked should not be revealed until a future time, but definitely no later than 1960, because then it would be much clearer. The first two secrets were revealed by Sr. Lucia in 1941, at the command of the local bishop. They were:

  • First Secret: A vision of hell, “where poor sinners go”
  • Second Secret: How to save sinners from going to hell and obtain world peace; specifically: devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart; else: great sufferings for and persecutions of the Pope and the Church, another terrible war (World War II), annihilation of entire nations

The Third Secret, on the other hand, was so frightening that Sr. Lucia was not able to write it down right away when commanded to do so. When she eventually did, the secret was placed into a sealed envelope and given to Bp. José Alves Correia da Silva, the local ordinary of the diocese of Leiria, who did not read it but sent it to the Vatican when ordered to do so in the 1950s.

Since then, the world has awaited the revelation of the Third Secret of Fatima. It is not clear whether Pope Pius XII ever opened the envelope and read the secret, but he probably did not. We know that Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani at the Holy Office did, and when 1960 came around, the Catholic world was eagerly expecting that the Third Secret would be revealed.

But alas, by 1960, Antipope John XXIII was already occupying the Vatican structures and plotting the dismantling of Catholicism by means of his so-called Second Vatican Council. He had no interest in the Virgin of Fatima and flat-out refused to release the Secret. So did his successors, although on June 26, 2000, the Modernist Vatican under Antipope John Paul II decided to release a text they claimed was the Third Secret of Fatima, which, however, has since been thoroughly discredited by Novus Ordo author and journalist Antonio Socci in his 2007 book The Fourth Secret of Fatima. What’s noteworthy about Socci’s work is that he had originally intended to defend the Vatican’s version of the Third Secret and meant to refute the claim that the real Third Secret still remained hidden. In the course of his research, however, he was forced to change his mind by the sheer force of the evidence.

Socci’s book caused quite a ruckus in Rome, leading “Cardinal” Tarcisio Bertone to appear on Italian television trying to “prove” that the Vatican’s text was the authentic Third Secret, although he inadvertently proved the opposite, as demonstrated by semi-traditionalist author Christopher Ferrara in his 2008 response to Bertone and vindication of Socci, The Secret Still Hidden.

What, then, is the true Third Secret of Fatima? Simply put, we do not know for sure. For decades various claims and texts have been circulated, but in the opinion of the present writer, the most convincing of them is this one:

There will be a wicked council planned and prepared that will change the countenance of the Church. Many will lose the Faith; confusion will reign everywhere. The sheep will search for their shepherds in vain.

A schism will tear apart the holy tunic of My Son. This will be the end of times, foretold in the Holy Scriptures and recalled to memory by Me in many places. The abomination of abominations will reach its peak and it will bring the chastisement announced at La Salette. My Son’s arm, which I will not be able to hold back anymore, will punish this poor world, which must expiate its crimes.

One will only speak about wars and revolutions. The elements of nature will be unchained and will cause anguish even among the best [the most courageous]. The Church will bleed from all Her wounds. Happy are they who will persevere and search for refuge in My Heart, because in the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.

(Alleged “Third Secret of Fatima” text related by Fr. Raymond Arnette)

Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima took place on October 13, 1917. The Blessed Mother had announced beforehand that she would work a miracle to confirm the authenticity and underscore the urgency and seriousness of her words, and so an estimated 70,000 people came to the Cova da Iria in anticipation of the event. This is when the Miracle of the Sun occurred, of which photos have been published:

A Photo of the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917

The Miracle of the Sun: October 13, 1917, in Fatima, Portugal

70,000 People gather at Fatima

70,000 People witness the Miracle of the Sun

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A close-up of some of the many people witnessing the miracle
(click to enlarge)

newspaper_fatima

An account of the Miracle of the Sun in a Portuguese newspaper
(click to enlarge)

A brief video about the Miracle of the Sun can be accessed here.

It has now been 100 years since May 13, 1917. This was not only the beginning of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, however; it was also the very day on which Pope Benedict XV consecrated Mgr. Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, a bishop. The Pope had just appointed Pacelli Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria and wanted him to begin his work as soon as possible. For this reason, the consecration was carried out quickly, and May 13 was chosen for the occasion. It turned out that Pacelli was consecrated “at the very hour” that Our Lady’s first apparition took place, by the very Pope whom Jacinta would miraculously see in a vision “in a very large house” as “kneeling before a little table, weeping, with his head between his hands” (see Walter H. Peters, The Life of Benedict XV [Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing, 1959], pp. 141, 217).

Pope Pius XII was truly the “Fatima Pope”: Not only was he made a bishop on the same day and hour of the first Fatima apparition; in 1944 he introduced the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the universal Roman calendar (August 22), he consecrated the people of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1952 (although not in union with all the bishops of the world) in his Apostolic Letter Sacro Vergente Anno, and he personally witnessed a repeat of the miracle of the sun in the Vatican Gardens, not once or twice, but as many as four times, in late October and early November 1950, around the time he solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption.

It is beyond all doubt that the last 100 years have seen the fulfillment of the various warnings and prophecies of Our Lady of Fatima. Let us increase our devotion to her and her Immaculate Heart, for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, and for world peace.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Fatima Resources

Controversies about Fatima