The Tinsmith Targets the Children
On July 23, 1917, ten days after the three seers of Fatima had seen a vision of hell during the third apparition of Our Lady in the Cova, O Seculo, the masonic liberal daily of Lisbon, headlined its first article on Fatima. It included descriptions of events that were totally made up, intended to lampoon the ignorance of the peasants of Portugal.
The headline of the O Seculo article declared the masonic cynicism of that era in Portugal. It flatly accused the Church of deception in the apparitions at the Cova da Iria, using the time-worn tactic of suggesting that the Church was only engaged in grabbing more money from the gullible poor. “An ambassador from Heaven — commercial speculation?”, read the accusatory headline.
Father Ferriera read in his paper:
“The children intoned a funeral chant, made epileptic gestures and fell into ecstasy!”
“But that is not true, Father!” cried an eyewitness in the room with the priest. “I was there. Very close to them.”
In Maria Rosa’s house, Lucy’s oldest brother reads on:
“The event made such an impression that on the said day, one could no longer find in Torres Novas a single car to rent, when that town, as everyone knows, possesses carriages and taxis in superabundance. Even many stores were closed.
“In the evening the pilgrims returning home passed through villages singing hymns and praises in honor of the Virgin Mary.”
Father Ferriera continued reading:
“The case seems ridiculous to the highest degree and we would not have taken it seriously if the eyewitness questioned did not deserve all our confidence. And if his declarations had not been confirmed by other people who tell the same thing.”
The ‘authorities’ were represented by one man: Arturo de Oliveira Santos, nicknamed “the Tinsmith”, the Mayor of Ourem, Portugal. In the Town Hall of Vila Nova, Oliveira Santos paces the floor. He had been nicknamed “the Tinsmith” because he managed the Tinsmith Progress newspaper, which he had inherited from his father. He was antiroyalist and very anticlerical.
After the revolution of 1910 in Portugal, Oliveira Santos became the man of power in a region overwhelmingly royalist and Catholic. He was the president-founder of the masonic lodge in the village of Ourem. It took little provocation for him to arrest any priest who crossed his path. He forbade all acts of worship outside the churches or after sunset, and at one time he stopped the ringing of church bells. Such was the man now looking with a cold, unfeeling eye on the family of Lucy dos Santos.
Sister Lucy sadly relates in her memoirs:
“It was a Friday, the 10th day of August. Manuel Marto and my father Antonio dos Santos received the order to appear with the children at the town hall of Vila Nova, the next day at noon. Manuel Marto decided he would not bring the children. He would go there alone.”
“I am going there myself and I will answer for them.” he said bravely. In the house of Antonio and Maria Rosa dos Santos things were quite different.
“My father thought differently,” Sister Lucy wrote simply.
“My daughter, I will bring her; there she will get along with them, it is for her to answer, for I understand nothing of those matters,” said Antonio.
That morning, later in the town hall office, the Tinsmith paced the floor cajoling, threatening, smiling, frowning at Lucy while Manuel Marto and Antonio dos Santos watched in the background.
“The administrator wanted, at any price, for me to reveal the Secret and to promise him never more to return to the Cova da Iria”, wrote Sister Lucy.
“In order to obtain that, he did not spare promises and, at the end, threats. Seeing he could do nothing, he sent me away, protesting that he would get what he wanted anyway, even if it were to take my life.”
That afternoon Manuel and Antonio entered the dos Santos house. Lucy stood outside looking blankly, sadly, at the door.
“What made me suffer most was the indifference my parents showed me, and all this appeared all the more clearly to me when I saw the tenderness with which my uncle and aunt treated their children.”
Lucy began to run down toward the well.
“But patience!” I said in the deepest recesses of my heart, “for thus I have the good fortune to suffer for Thy Love, O my God, and for the conversion of sinners.”
Francisco and Jacinta were weeping alongside the well. They looked up with surprise at Lucy’s approach.
“Here you are then!” cried Jacinta.
Francisco told her, “Your sister came to get water and told us they had already killed you!”
They had been praying and weeping all day for Lucy.
The intense opposition to Our Lady and Her Secret took center stage at Vila Nova. Three months later, 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun.