Fatima Apparitions. Part 5: The Third Secret Of Fatima

For decades the Third Secret of Fatima was held in Vatican’s Secret Archives and during those years multiple theories were created about what the Secret contained. Most of these theories focused on the alleged prophesies about the end of the world, nuclear war and divisions within the Catholic Church. Some of the theories remain alive even today, almost two decades after the Vatican released the full text of the Secret, and it became clear that the Secret was not intended to predict any historical events but rather was an invitation to return to God and do penance for the sins of the past.

The Secret was revealed to the three visionaries of Fatima during Our Lady’s apparition on July 13, 1917 and it is called “third” because it followed the revelation of the two other secrets during the same apparition: (1) vision of hell and (2) devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (with predictions of the end of the World War I and the beginning of the World War II).

Three Fatima Visionaries With Family Members And Pilgrims After July 13, 1917 Apparition.

Written by Sr. Lucia (visionary of Fatima) in 1944 and initially held by the Bishop of Leiria (Portugal), the document with the Third Secret was transferred to the Vatican in 1957 to ensure its better protection. Pope John XXIII read the Secret in August of 1959 but decided to not make it public. Pope Paul VI did the same in March of 1965. After his assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II also read the Secret along with the rest of the Fatima message and decided to consecrate the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which he did in the spiritual union with bishops of the world on March 25, 1984.

The Third Secret itself can be divided into three smaller parts that are closely connected with the rest of the Fatima message. The Secret invites people to conversion and penance, compares suffering Church with the suffering Christ and shows the meaning of martyrdom.

1. Angel’s Anger Transformed Into A Call For Conversion

“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!’.”

Here we see an angel who is about to destroy the world for its sins. We also see Our Lady who extinguishes the flames of punishment and then transforms the angel’s anger into a call for conversion and penance.

As we have already seen earlier in July’s apparition, sins have consequences – they call for God’s punishment here on earth (by war, famine, etc.) and in eternity (by bringing souls to hell). Mary is the Mother of Christ who shed his blood for the salvation of each and every human being. Mary does not want a single soul to be eternally lost and thus her Son’s blood and passion to be wasted. As we see in this vision, Mary has the power to stop the punishment for sins so that people had another chance to return to God. But as powerful as Mary is, she cannot violate man’s freedom and force him to return to God – human being himself chooses God or evil.

As then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (and later Pope Benedict XVI) points out in his theological commentary that accompanied the release of the Third Secret in the year 2000, “the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction.”*

2. Via Crucis of the Church

“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.”

This part of the Third Secret presents two groups of people who had the same God-given freedom but directed it towards two very different purposes: (1) Holy Father, bishops, priests, religious and lay people who faithfully followed Christ and died for their faith and (2) evil-serving soldiers who killed them and reduced the city to ruins. Angel’s flaming sword was not necessary to destroy the city and to kill its people – godless human being is capable to spread the destruction himself.

In his theological commentary, Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “The mountain and the city symbolize the arena of human history (…) The city can be the place of communion and progress, but also of danger and the most extreme menace. On the mountain stands the cross – the goal and guide of history. The cross transforms destruction into salvation; it stands as a sign of history’s misery but also as a promise for history”*. Ratzinger also sees here the Church walking “through a time of violence, destruction and persecution”*, calls this journey Via Crucis and thus compares the Church with Christ walking through the streets of Jerusalem up to the place of his crucifixion.

We could say that this part of the vision was mostly fulfilled in the twentieth century by Russia (Soviet Union) and other communist regimes as they have killed millions of Christians, including bishops, priests, religious and lay people around the world. Pope John Paul II was assassinated but miraculously avoided death on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1981 which inspired him to fulfill Our Lady’s request to consecrate the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A few years after this consecration, communist regimes started collapsing around the world and communist persecution of the Church mostly ended.

3. Blood of Christ and Blood of Martyrs Are One

“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.”           

Martyrdom of the followers of Christ does not mean the victory of evil. On the contrary, martyrs not only join the eternal happiness in heaven but also become a source of holiness on earth.  Ratzinger writes about this part of the Secret: “Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross. The martyrs die in communion with the Passion of Christ, and their death becomes one with his. For the sake of the body of Christ, they complete what is still lacking in his afflictions (cf. Col 1:24). Their life has itself become a Eucharist, part of the mystery of the grain of wheat which in dying yields abundant fruit.”*

Martyrdom is the continuation of Christ’s sacrifice hundreds and thousands of years after his death on the Calvary. By dying out of love for Christ martyrs become like Christ who died out of love for them. And just as the Eucharistic Blood of Christ strengthens his followers on their journey to holiness and to God so does the blood of martyrs when it is “sprinkled” on those “making their way to God”.


*The Message of Fatima by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html