Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò is greatly respected by many Catholics; when he speaks his words are taken seriously. So his recent remarks to the Portuguese publication Dies Irae about Our Lady of Fátima were a major story: “The third part of the message that Our Lady entrusted to the shepherds of Fátima, so that they could deliver it to the Holy Father, remains a secret today.” Since 1960, he said, popes and Vatican officials had taken part in “a cover-up operation”, in which a “terrible conspiracy” against the Church was kept out of public view. This is a very significant allegation that, upon closer scrutiny, quickly breaks down.
For a start, Viganò’s grasp of the details is not very precise. He claims that in 1960, John XXIII issued “a statement” explaining his reasons for not publishing the message from Our Lady. According to Viganò, Pope John “published, on February 8 of that year, a statement in which he stated that … ‘he does not want to assume the responsibility of guaranteeing the truth of the words that the three little shepherds say that the Virgin Mary addressed to them.’” This statement, says Viganò, was the start of the cover-up.
But John XXIII never made any such statement. There was a document published on February 8, but it was not a communiqué from the Vatican issued by the order of the Pope. Rather, it was a news article based upon unnamed sources within the Vatican who spoke with an unnamed reporter for the United Press International. In my book On the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima, I have shown that the two groups the reporter cites were more than likely ignorant of the third part, and were merely speculating. Such information provides a shaky basis for Viganò’s claim.
Viganò seems unaware of crucial evidence which contradicts his account. He says that: “The third part of the message … remains secret to this day.” This, he says, is partly the fault of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former Secretary of State who tried to mislead Catholics about the third part of Our Lady’s message. What is Viganò’s support for this series of claims? He points to the journalist Antonio Socci, “who has thoroughly investigated the Third Secret, [and] has unmasked this malicious behaviour on the part of Cardinal Bertone”.
Viganò is presumably referring to Socci’s 2006 book The Fourth Secret of Fatima, which presents the hypothesis that Sr Lúcia, the last surviving seer of Fátima, supposedly wrote down a second text, one containing explanatory words of the Virgin that tell us the meaning of the third part of the secret. These explanatory words are, on Socci’s account, what the Vatican has refused to make public.
This was challenged in 2013, in a biography of Sister Lúcia written by those who knew her best, the Carmelite Sisters of the St Teresa convent in Coimbra, Portugal. Sister Lúcia lived in this convent from 1948 to her death in 2005. It revealed the discourse of Our Lady to Lúcia wherein the permission was given to write down the third part of the secret. Our Lady said, “Write what they command you, but not that which is given to you to understand of its meaning.”
From this we now know that there was a meaning (significado) given to Sister Lúcia. At the same time, there was a direct command from the Mother of God herself to Lúcia not to reveal that meaning. How, then, can there be a second text from Lúcia containing an explanation if the Blessed Virgin herself had commanded that no such text be written?
Archbishop Viganò’s remarks indicate a lack of knowledge on the history of the third part of the secret of Fátima. The archbishop faces a grave danger: uninformed statements undermining his credibility. Those who wish him well (this writer included) should urge him, charitably, to a closer study of the historical literature.