The "Release" of the Third Secret
Fatima Revered or Reviled?
by John Vennari
May 26, 2016
Note: With the Third Secret back in the news, we revisit the many anomalies that accompanied the original “release” of the Third Secret on June 26, 2000.
The following is an edited adaptation of a speech given by the author at the Catholic Restoration Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in October 2000.
I’m taking for granted that the audience knows the following about the Third Secret:
- that Sister Lucy, when she finally wrote down the Secret in 1944, under obedience, had a very hard time doing it because of its disturbing contents. Sister Lucy’s interior conflict was so great that on January 2, 1944, Our Lady appeared to Sister Lucy and told her that yes, Heaven willed that she write down the Secret;
- that on January 9, 1944, Lucy wrote to Bishop da Silva of Fatima saying that she had written down the Secret in a sealed envelope and in her note book;
- that the envelope containing the Secret was hand delivered to Bishop da Silva on June 17, 1944;
- that in 1957, the Secret was transferred to the Vatican’s Holy Office;
- that the Secret was supposed to be released in 1960.
When Sister Lucy was asked “Why 1960?” she responded, “Because the Blessed Virgin wishes it so.” Also, in 1955, Cardinal Ottaviani visited Sister Lucy and asked her why the Secret should not be released until 1960. Sister Lucy replied: “Because then, it will become clearer.”
The entire world was waiting for the year 1960, for the Secret to be released. And in 1960, Pope John XXIII read the Third Secret, and decided not to release it to the world. It is reported that he said of the Secret, “This does not concern my pontificate.”1
I’m also taking for granted that the audience is familiar with the magnificent work of Frère Michel of the Holy Trinity, The Whole Truth About Fatima, in which he argues that the contents of the Third Secret are probably an allusion to the present crisis of Faith that our Holy Church has been suffering since the time of the Second Vatican Council. Frère Michel, of course, is basing much of his work on top Fatima scholars, especially Father Joaquin Alonso — probably the finest in the field.
And so, on May 13, 2000, in Fatima, at the beatification ceremony of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the surprise announcement came. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Sodano announced, in the name of Pope John Paul II, that the Vatican planned to disclose the contents of the Third Secret.
On that day, Cardinal Sodano revealed what appeared to be a small part of the Secret.
He spoke of the Secret containing the vision of a “bishop clothed in white” who, while making his way amid the corpses of victims, “falls to the ground apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire.” (Cardinal Sodano’s words)
One week later, on May 21, Vatican Spokesman Navarro-Valls seemed to reveal the thinking behind the decision to disclose the Third Secret:
“The publication of the prophecy will provide no papal support for the anti-ecumenical traditionalism which has improperly seized hold of certain aspects of the Message of Fatima, speculating in a millenary key on the presumed, but not actual, contents of this unpublished text.
“On the contrary, the decision to publish it arose from the conviction that one could not allow Fatima to become hostage to a partisan position (positione di parte). When it is published, each aspect of the Message of Fatima will recover its just proportions, and taken as a whole it will be more intelligible for everyone.”2
This, then, seems to be the prime motivation. It is an attempt to extinguish, once and for all, the speculation among traditional-minded Catholics that the content of the Third Secret speaks of the crisis of Faith that the Church has suffered since the time of the Second Vatican Council.
And Navarro-Valls claims that once the Secret is released, the Fatima Message will be “more intelligible for everyone”.
Let’s see if he’s right.
Here, then, is the Vision of the Third Secret that was released by the Vatican on June 26, 2000:
“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 splendor 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.”
The official Vatican interpretation of this is that it is a prophecy of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II [note: the entire audience laughed when I said this – jv]. And of course, most of you are aware, Cardinal Ratzinger has stated (I guess he had to really) that Catholics are not under obligation to accept this interpretation.
Regarding what the Vatican released, there seems to be no reason to doubt that this is actually part of the Third Secret. The problems, however, show themselves in other areas.
First: The manner in which the Secret was delivered to us. It was delivered in stages. And the way it was delivered seemed to be an attempt to force-fit the Vatican’s interpretation on the Vision of the Secret.
As I had said, on May 13, 2000, when Cardinal Sodano announced that it would be released, he said that the Secret contained a vision where the Pope falls apparently dead under a burst of gunfire: the prophecy of this Third Secret, therefore, was fulfilled in 1981 with the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.
Then for 5 or 6 weeks, before June 26, this myth was allowed to build and to roll, and to permeate the media, that the Third Secret has been fulfilled: it was the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul.
So by the time that June 26 came around, the world had already been pre-conditioned to accept the prophecy of the Third Secret as being nothing more than this 1981 assassination attempt.
Thankfully, not everyone accepted that interpretation; mainly because it doesn’t really square with the Vision of the Secret. And I’m not talking about Catholic writers only. There were those in the secular press who could see that it all just doesn’t jive:
For example, the July 1 Washington Post observed:
“On May 13, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a top Vatican official, announced the imminent release of the carefully guarded text. He said the Third Secret of Fatima foretold not the end of the world, as some had speculated, but the May 13, 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.
“Sodano said the manuscript ... tells of a ‘bishop clothed in white’ who, while making his way amid corpses of martyrs, ‘falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire.’
“But the text released Monday (June 26) leaves no doubt about the bishop’s fate, saying that he ‘was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him.’ Everyone with the pontiff also dies — bishops, priests, monks, nuns and lay people. John Paul survived his shooting at the hands of a single gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, and no one in the crowd was harmed in the attack.”3
In so many words, this secular newspaper cannot help but look at Cardinal Sodano with a jaundiced eye and say: “You weren’t quite honest with us. You told us on May 13 that the Pope falls apparently dead. But the text released on June 26 doesn’t say he falls apparently dead, it says clearly that he is killed. So, you didn’t really tell us the truth. You gave us a falsified picture of what the Secret actually says and then you force-fit your interpretation into it.”
Now, I’m not quoting the Washington Post as if it is a bastion of journalistic integrity. I’m simply pointing out that what they say is a common-sense reaction to the Vatican’s interpretation.
If we look further, we see that the Washington Post is stating that, as far as everything else going on in the Vision of the Secret, the Vatican’s interpretation doesn’t fit:
In the Vision of the Secret, the bishop in white is killed.
In 1981, John Paul II was not killed; he survived the shooting.
So that doesn’t fit.
In the vision, the gunfire comes from a group of soldiers.
In 1981, the gunfire did not come from a group of soldiers, but from a single gunman.
So that doesn’t fit.
In the vision, the Pope is killed, and so are bishops, priests, religious and laypeople.
In 1981, no one else except the Pope was harmed during the shooting.
So that doesn’t fit.
These are just some of the discrepancies that cause the average man on the street, Catholic or not, to question the Vatican’s interpretation. (I could cite many similar quotations, especially from European and Italian press, that reacted in a similar manner as did the Post.)
Second: If the 1981 assassination attempt against John Paul II is the fulfillment of the Third Secret, then we have a real problem with something Sister Lucy wrote a year later, in 1982. Because on May 12, 1982, a year after the attempt on the Pope’s life, Sister Lucy wrote to the Pope:
“... if we have not yet seen the complete fulfillment of the final part of the prophecy [Third Secret], we are going towards it little by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred, revenge ... It is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment.”
So, we see that one year after the assassination attempt, Sister Lucy made it clear that the prophecy of the Third Secret has not yet been completely fulfilled, that the world is moving in great strides towards an even greater punishment because of sin; and she herself draws no connection in her letter between the assassination attempt a year earlier and the vision of the Pope being shot dead by a group of soldiers.
Third: There are difficulties concerning the manuscript itself. In this way:
In 1957, just before the envelope containing the Third Secret was transferred from Portugal to the Vatican, Auxiliary Bishop Venancio of Portugal momentarily held the Secret in his hand. He took the opportunity to hold the sealed envelope up to the light.
Bishop Venancio saw that this envelope contained a smaller envelope, and inside that smaller envelope was a small folded piece of paper with handwriting on it. Bishop Venancio could see, then, that the Third Secret was approximately 20 to 25 handwritten lines on one small margined piece of paper.
By contrast, what was released by the Vatican on June 26 was four sheets of paper, 64 lines.
I recommend an article in the Summer 2000 edition of The Fatima Crusader, Issue 64, entitled “Are There Two Original Manuscripts on the Third Secret?” The article discusses the real possibility that there may be two different, but complementary, texts of the Third Secret — the one that was written in Sister Lucy’s notebook, the other on one sheet of paper. This thesis holds that on June 26, the Vatican released the four pages of her notebook, but has yet to release the contents of the single sheet of paper.
And why are there two texts? Here’s how Father Nicholas Gruner explains it:
He points out that whenever Our Lady of Fatima gave a vision to the children, She always supplied the explanation.
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady of Fatima gave the children the vision of Hell. And even though this vision seemed self-explanatory, Our Lady also supplied the explanation: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.”
Likewise on June 13, 1917, Our Lady opened Her hands and a light came from Her hands. The light from one hand fell on Jacinta and Francisco and then went upwards towards Heaven but the light from Our Lady’s other hand reflected off Lucy and spread out over the countryside. Lucy said that they understood that this meant that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken to Heaven soon, and that Lucy was to stay on earth in order to spread the Message of Fatima. Even though the children understood, Our Lady still explained the vision: She said “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you (Lucy) are to stay here sometime longer to spread devotion to My Immaculate Heart.”
So, there’s good reason to believe that the Third Secret may be structured along the same lines. The 64-line text that was released on June 26 was the vision, but we still have not been given the explanation, which may be contained in the 25-line text — which may, in fact, refer to the crisis of Faith of our time; especially if the half-ruined city mentioned in the vision represents the City of God, the Catholic Church. (Pope Leo XIII, following St. Augustine, reiterated that the Catholic Church is the City of God. This is found in the first paragraph of the 1884 encyclical against Freemasonry, Humanum Genus.)
The Fatima Crusader article lists a total of 10 reasons why there may be actually two manuscripts.4
Fourth: In Sister Lucy’s Memoirs, at the end of the Second Secret, we find the phrase, “‘In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved’, etc.” Many Fatima scholars have seen this line as a segue into the Third Secret. It’s the introduction of a new idea, a new point. And it’s an indication that the Third Secret may deal with a Crisis of Faith, since it seems that “the dogma of the Faith” will be lost everywhere else.
But what was released by the Vatican leaves that line orphaned. It is left hanging, with no connection to anything else that follows; and it gives the distinct impression that something is missing.
Oddly enough, in 1984, even Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about the prophecy of the Third Secret concerning the “dangers to the Faith”.
Yet in the text of the vision that was released in June of this year, there is no mention of the “dangers to the Faith.”
Presently, we are getting an even different message from Cardinal Ratzinger. I’m not going to speculate as to why. I’m just pointing out that it is yet another one of those points about the June 26 document that doesn’t quite add up.
And remember, Navarro-Valls had said that what the Vatican released would make everything “more intelligible”.
Fifth: There are some curious and disappointing statements from Cardinal Ratzinger in his June 26 Commentary (released along with the Secret) that seem to be an attempt to cast doubt on the veracity of the Third Secret itself.
In the Commentary that accompanied the release of the Third Secret, Cardinal Ratzinger said:
- “The concluding part of the ‘secret’ uses images which Lucy may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from ancient intuitions of faith.”
Why is that statement made?
Is this a subtle way of suggesting that perhaps the entire Third Secret was merely a figment of Lucy’s imagination? That she got the ideas and images not from Heaven speaking to her, but from devotional books?
Statements like this from Cardinal Ratzinger cannot help but leave the reader with the impression that this is an undermining of the Vision of the Third Secret.
And it certainly didn’t help that in his Commentary, the only “Fatima expert” mentioned by Cardinal Ratzinger was Father Edouard Dhanis. Now Father Dhanis was a Jesuit who, during the 1940s and 50s, made a veritable career out of trying to debunk Fatima. He was influential at the Vatican and his writings enjoyed a wide distribution.
In the 1940s, Dhanis implied that Lucy invented the Fatima secret. In fact, he casts doubt on any revelations that Sister Lucy received from Our Lady after 1917. Other Fatima scholars at the time demonstrated time and time again that Dhanis’ thesis was wrong. They even invited Dhanis to come to Fatima after the war so that he could correct his erroneous views.
Father Dhanis refused to go to Spain and Portugal to examine the primary documentation, he refused the invitation to interview Sister Lucy, and he stuck to his thesis. During this time, another Fatima scholar (Father Jedin) writing against Dhanis asked the question, “Is this really the mark of a sound critical mind?”
Of course it isn’t.
And it should also be noted that in 1967, Father Dhanis was one of the primary authors of the infamous Dutch Catechism.
Yet Dhanis was the only “Fatima expert” that Cardinal Ratzinger chose to mention by name in the June 26 Commentary on Fatima. Why not mention Father Alonso, probably the finest Fatima scholar to date? Is this Cardinal Ratzinger’s way of telling us that he agrees with Father Dhanis’ flawed thesis?
His commentary can lead us to believe this.
Further, Cardinal Ratzinger’s June 26 Commentary on Fatima contains no mention of the necessity of reciting the Rosary, the Brown Scapular, the Five First Saturdays — all constitutive elements of the Fatima Message.
No wonder the June 27 Los Angeles Times said the following concerning Ratzinger’s treatment of Fatima: “The Vatican’s top theologian gently debunked the Fatima cult.”5
In a similar manner, the Associated Press ran as its headline: “The Vatican closes its book on Fatima Mystery.”6
The impression given is that with the release of the “Secret”, Fatima is finished, the prophecies are all fulfilled, including the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Russia’s conversion.
Regarding the Consecration of Russia, the June 26 Vatican document states that Sister Lucy now claims that Pope John Paul II’s 1984 Consecration of the WORLD actually fulfilled Our Lady’s request regarding the consecration of Russia.
Here’s what the June 26 Vatican document says:
“Sister Lucy personally confirmed that this solemn and universal act of consecration corresponded to what Our Lady wished (‘Sim, esta feita, tal como Nossa Senhora a pediu, desde o dia 25 de Marco de 1984’) ‘Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984’ (Letter of 8 November 1989). Hence any further discussion or request is without basis.”7
There are a few problems with this statement.
First of all, it contradicts previous testimony of Sister Lucy wherein she said on a number of occasions that the 1984 consecration did not fulfill the requests of Our Lady regarding the Consecration of Russia.
Here are three examples.
First: Just prior to the 1984 consecration, Lucy received and read the Holy Father’s text. When asked by an old friend, Mrs. Maria Eugenia Pestana about the upcoming consecration, Lucy made a negative gesture and she replied, “This act of consecration cannot be decisive because Russia does not appear in it as the sole object of the consecration.”8 The other problem, of course, is that the world’s bishops were not expressly commanded to participate in the Consecration, neither did they do so.
Second: There is the testimony of a relative of Sister Lucy who attended Lucy’s eightieth birthday celebration in 1987. At the time, Lucy was questioned about the consecration but refused to respond. Then, and this is a quotation from Frère François:
“There came the turn of a certain cousin, who lives in Fatima … and who, above all, knew very well what had to be asked and under what conditions it had to be said. That cousin wanted to hear from the very mouth of Sister Lucy of Fatima if the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was truly done, according to the specifications of Our Lady. The reply came clean, like a cannon ball and in a sudden manner: ‘No!’”9
Third: In 1989 Cardinal Law visited Lucy and asked her about the consecration of Russia. She responded by asking and answering a question. She said: “[H]as it been done on the narrow road of the collegial consecration that She [Our Lady] demanded and has been wanting? No, that has not been done.”10
So, in 1984, 1987, 1989, and in other testimonies as well, Sister Lucy is confirming that the 1984 consecration did not satisfy the conditions given by Our Lady.
Then what about this letter of November 8, 1989 that is contained in the June 26 Vatican document where Sister Lucy says it was done?
You’ll notice that the Vatican didn’t footnote the source of this letter. They only give the date. We’re not told who it was written to or anything else about it. And I’m sure that the reason they didn’t footnote it is because they know that long ago, this same letter had been discredited as a forgery, not written by Sister Lucy at all. What was quoted in the Vatican document is a supposed letter from Sister Lucy to a man named Walter Noelker, dated November 8, 1989. If that entire letter had been quoted in its entirety, the reader would have no trouble understanding why Fatima experts cannot take the letter seriously.
In this same Nov. 8 letter, the author (allegedly Lucy) refers to a consecration made by Pope Paul VI during his 1967 visit to Fatima. The problem with that is there was no such consecration, and Lucy should know, because she was there.
Also, in the same letter, the “author” (allegedly Lucy) declares the consecration of Russia could not be done during the course of a Council.11 This is a flat contradiction to earlier statements made by Lucy, and other Fatima experts, who have said that a gathering of the world’s bishops is an ideal setting for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.12 In fact, several unsuccessful attempts were made during Vatican II to have Paul VI perform the collegial consecration, but he refused.
So, this dubious letter, which has all the appearances of being a clumsy forgery, is the only “proof” that the Vatican document offers that Russia has been successfully consecrated. This is the “solid factual foundation” on which the June 26 Vatican document states with unjustified pomposity: “Hence any further discussion or request (for the Consecration of Russia) is without basis.”
- 1. Frère François, Fatima: Intimate Joy, World Event, Book IV, Ch. 2.
- 2. Quoted from “The Disclosure of the Third Secret of Fatima” by Frère François, Catholic Counter Reformations, August 2000.
- 3. “Third Secret Spurs More Questions: Fatima Interpretation Departs from Vision”, Washington Post, July 1, 2000.
- 4. “Are There Two Manuscripts on the Third Secret?” The Fatima Crusader, Issue 64, Summer 2000. Also available on the web at www.fatimacrusader.com/cr64/cr64pg03.asp.
- 5. “Catholic Church Unveils ‘Third Secret of Fatima’”, Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2000.
- 6. “Vatican Closes Its Book on Fatima Mystery”, Associated Press, July 5, 2000.
- 7. Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, “Introduction”, The Message of Fatima, June 26, 2000, p. 8.
- 8. Fatima: Intimate Joy, World Event, Book IV, pp. 167-168.
- 9. Fatima: Intimate Joy, World Event, Book IV, pp. 188-189.
- 10. Ibid.
- 11. See CRC, May 1990, p. 2; and CRC, August 1990, “Fatima Inquest” by David Boyce. (Cited from Fellows, CFN, September 2000.)
- 12. See CRC, May 1990, p. 2, and CRC No. 318, April 1999, p. 12 (cited from Ibid.).