On the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima by Kevin Symonds, En Route Books, £26.96
This book is a quite comprehensive treatment of a difficult subject, and one that breaks significant new ground with regard to the third part of the secret of Fatima, an issue over which conspiracy theorists have burned much midnight oil.
The secret as a whole was given to the Fatima seers during the July 1917 apparition. The first part was the terrifying vision of hell they saw, while the second part of the secret concerned the warning given by Our Lady about the outbreak of World War II, and how Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. Her remedy for these things was the consecration of that country to her Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. She also promised that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph and a period of peace would be given to the world.
Then came the third part of the secret, which was written down by Sister Lucia in January 1944, taken to Rome in 1957, and only finally revealed in the year 2000 at the behest of Pope John Paul II.
This was a vision seen by the seers in which a “bishop dressed in white” – taken to be the Pope – struggled up a mountain through a half-ruined city, followed by numerous Catholics of all ranks. At the top of the mountain was a rough wooden cross, and here the pope and his followers were all killed. This vision was explained in 2000 as symbolic of the sufferings undergone by the Church during the 20th century in particular.
The author discusses the meaning of the phrase, “In Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved”, which is found at the end of the second part of the secret in the fourth memoir, but is omitted in the third memoir. The crucial question is whether this phrase is the end of the second part of the secret or the beginning of the third. A lot hangs on that question. Those who believe that the full text of the secret hasn’t yet been revealed, have seized on this phrase in support of their view that the third part of the secret refers to a crisis of faith within the Church rather than external persecutions.
This is the approach found among the writings of people such as the Abbé George de Nantes, Frère Michel of the Holy Trinity, and the late Fr Nicholas Gruner.
But, as Symonds demonstrates, it is perfectly plausible to regard it as the end of the second part of the secret, and thus not an indication of the tone or content of the third part.
One of the important claims made by Frère Michel, who was responsible for the multi-volume The Whole Truth About Fatima, was that the third part of the secret comprised only about 20 to 25 lines, whereas the text released by the Vatican in 2000 had 62 lines, leading to speculation about other texts which were not being revealed.
But it seems that this figure of 20 to 25 lines comes from Frère Michel himself rather than being based on any solid evidence. It seems he derived this idea from the comments by Bishop Venancio of Leiria-Fatima, the successor to Bishop Correia da Silva, who had seen the secret within its envelope and described the whole as being “small”. This idea of a 20- to 25-line secret has been widely broadcast by those who claim a cover-up.
Regarding the content of the third part of the secret, it is worth noting that Cardinal Ottaviani, who had read it, said in 1967, in Rome, that it actually referred to the pope, rather than being addressed to him – which again backs up the version which was revealed by the Vatican in 2000.
In fact, the actual content of the third part of the secret makes it understandable why it wasn’t revealed in 1960, which was widely expected at the time. Clearly the account of a future pope being killed could have led to even more conspiracy theories, or even attempts on the life of the pope. Thus it wasn’t revealed until after the assassination attempt on Pope St John Paul II on May 13, 1981.
It should also be noted that in his commentary on the third part of the secret, the then Cardinal Ratzinger said that it was being revealed “in its entirety”, which ought to have been enough for the critics.
This book is not light reading, and does require the ability to follow an often complex series of arguments, but for anyone interested in the subject, it will be an essential text.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions and maintains a related website at theotokos.org.uk