The third secret of Fatima

 As promised during the Pope's visit to Fatima last month, the Vatican has now released the full text of the third secret of Fatima. The account of the vision was written by the surviving visionary, Sr Lucia dos Santos. It describes an angel with a flaming sword and a bishop dressed in white, passing through a big city half in ruins with many people lying dead. He trembled and prayed for the souls of the corpses. When he reached the top of a mountain, he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him. Bishops, nuns and priests and other people all died one after the other. The Pope has already made clear his belief in the significance of the prophecy. While in hospital recovering from the attempt on his life on 13 May 1981, he asked to see the text which convinced him that Our Lady of Fatima had saved him from death. In June that year he consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Introducing the secret, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote: "The twentieth century was one of the most crucial in human history, with its tragic and cruel events culminating in the assassination attempt on the 'sweet Christ on earth'. Now a veil is drawn back on a series of events which make history and interpret it in depth, in a spiritual perspective alien to present-day attitudes, often tainted with rationalism. "Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike, play their part in the unfolding of history. These manifestations can never contradict the content of faith, and must therefore have their focus in the core of Christ's proclamation: the Father's love which leads men and women to conversion and bestows the grace required to abandon oneself to him with filial devotion. This too is the message of Fatima which, with its urgent call to conversion and penance, draws us to the heart of the Gospel." In his theological interpretation of the secret, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said: "In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinised but not scorned." "... the events to which the third part of the 'secret' of Fatima refers now seem part of the past. ... Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the 'secret': the exhortation to prayer as the path of 'salvation for souls' and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion. "I would like finally to mention another key expression of the 'secret' which has become justly famous: 'my Immaculate Heart will triumph'. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world - because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: 'In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world' (John 16:33).The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise." A history of the Fatima secret; a copy of the complete text, handwritten in Portuguese by the surviving visionary, Sr Lucia, together with an English translation; Pope John Paul II's prayer; Cardinal Ratzinger's interpretation, together with several other documents and letters form a fascinating dossier which can be seen on the Vatican website.

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