The Boring Third Secret of Fatima | Catholic World Report – Global Church news and views

One ofthe oddities around today is the network of conspiracy theorists who areabsolutely convinced that both St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVIare unrepentant liars.

Thetheory involves some six decades and five popes…plus a variety of characters,including an ex-Jesuit who became a best-selling novelist and someself-proclaimed handwriting experts, as well as a Vatican cupboard, twoenvelopes, and optional figures including a lookalike who was substituted for aFatima visionary.

Yes, it’sthe Fatimist conspiracy. It’s fading, but rises up again from time to time,always drifting around the fraying edges of the odder Catholic byways of the Internet.

Let’srecap. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul announced the publication, in full, ofwhat had become known as the “Third Secret”: the final part of an extraordinaryrevelation to three children who, at Fatima in Portugal in 1917, hadexperienced a series of visions which after deep investigations the Churchdeclared to be of supernatural origin. Two of the children died in theinfluenza epidemic that followed the First World War; the third, Lucia, becamea nun and lived faithfully in religious life until a very old age. It was shewho wrote out the “Secret,” on an old-fashioned four-folded sheet of notepaper,at the request of her bishop, in 1944. It was read in turn by Popes John XXIIIand Paul VI but each decided not to publish it. Pope John Paul read it in 1981,after he survived an assassination attempt which took place on the anniversaryof the Fatima apparitions.

Unsurprisingly,the final publication in 2000 caused headlines. The “Secret” turned out to bean impressive vision in which, among much else, a bishop dressed in white wasseen struggling through a ruined city, shot at with arrows and falling to theground. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for theDoctrine of the Faith, was given the task of analyzing the vision and giving adetailed theological commentary. There was much to ponder: clearly this was allconnected with the horrors that the Church and the world had experienced in the20th century—not least with the shooting of John Paul in 1981—and the essenceof the whole vision was that sorrow and danger and martyrdom reinforce the callto prayer and repentance, and a trust in God.As Cardinal Ratzinger put it:

The fiat of Mary, the word ofher heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviorinto the world—because, thanks to her Yes,God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil Onehas power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has powerbecause our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since Godhimself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what isgood, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that timeforth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation,but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

But forsome, there was great disappointment. There had been a passionate convictionamong some enthusiasts that the Third Secret should have fulfilled theirpersonal expectations: these variously included atomic war, a false pope(sometimes two or three of them), the destruction of the Church and itsreplacement with a Satanic cult based in St. Peter’s, widespread slaughter,food shortages and the need to stock up on water and possibly privategenerators for home electricity. The catch-phrase was “great chastisement” andit was generally held to involve scorched earth, Freemasons, famine, floods—andthe survival of a virtuous few who would eventually take charge and run thingsin the future. I remember a friend telephoning me to say that her family hadheld a special meeting to discuss it all: they had for some years beenanticipating that the Secret would concern revelations about an imminent worldemergency for which it would be important to store tinned food and othernecessities, and it somehow seemed all wrong that these preparations were notrequired.

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