Our Lady of Fatima

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Our Lady of Fatima (Portuguese: Nossa Senhora do Rosário da Fátima) is the title given to the Virgin Mary by Catholics and others who believe that she appeared to three shepherd children at Fátima, Portugal, in 1917.



Between May and October of 1917, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three shepherd children—Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto—in the Cova da Iria fields outside the village of Aljustrel, very close to Fatima, Portugal. They had this experience on the 13th day of each month at approximately the same hour. Lúcia later described seeing Mary as "more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun."

According to Lúcia's account, Mary confided to the children three secrets and exhorted the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners. The children wore tight cords around their waists to cause pain, abstained from drinking water on hot days, and other works of penance. Most important, Lúcia said Mary asked them to say the Rosary every day, reiterating many times that the Rosary was the key to personal and world peace. Many young Portuguese men, including relatives of the visionaries, were then fighting in World War I.

Thousands of people flocked to Fatima in the ensuing months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator Arturo dos Santos (no relation), alleging that the miracles of Fatima were disruptive, intercepted and jailed the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria that day. Prisoners held with them in the provincial jail later testified that the children, while upset, were consolable by the inmates, and then led the inmates in saying the Rosary. Dos Santos interrogated the children primarily about the alleged secrets, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to discover what those secrets were. Administrator Dos Santos went so far as to feign the preparation of a pot of boiling oil, and then removed the children one by one from his interrogation room, claiming that the removed child had been boiled to death in the oil, and urging the remaining child to divulge the secret so as to avoid a similar fate. That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iría on the 13th of the month, the children stated they saw Mary on the 19th of August at nearby Valinhos.

On October 13, 1917, the final in the series of the apparations of 1917, a crowd of 70,000 people, including reporters from newspapers, gathered at the Cova da Iria in a torrential rainstorm in response to the children's prior claims that on that day a miracle would occur "so that all may believe". Countless observers reported that the clouds broke, revealing the sun as an opaque disk spinning in the sky and radiating various colors of light upon the surroundings, then appearing to detach itself from the sky and plunge itself towards the earth in a zigzap pattern, finally returning to its normal place, and leaving the people's once wet clothing now completely dry - an event called the great Solar Miracle of Fatima. Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Século (Portugal's most influential newpaper, which was pro-government in policy and avowedly anti-clerical), reported the following "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws-the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people." Eye specialist Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem reported "The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceeding fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be appoaching the earth, strongly radiating heat". The special reporter for the October 17, 1917 edition of the Lisbon daily, O Dia, reported the following, "...the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds...The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands...people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they."

No one present on October 17, 1917 is reported to have denied the visible prodigy of the sun that day, including also the man who photographed the reaction of the crowd.


No movement or other phenomenon of the sun was registered by scientists at the time. According to contemporary reports from poet Alfonso Lopes Vieira and schoolteacher Delfina Lopes with her students and other witnesses in the town of Alburita, the solar phenomena were visible from up to forty kilometers away. The three seers themelves did not report seeing the actions of the sun that day, instead they reported seeing a panorama of visions including those of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and of Saint Joseph blessing the people.

The Consecration of Russia

According to Sister Lucy, The Virgin Mary promised that the Consecration of Russia would lead to Russia's conversion and an era of peace.

Many believe Pope John Paul II fulfilled this request in 1984 by giving a blessing over the world, including Russia, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is commonly believed that Sister Lúcia verified that this ceremony fulfilled the requests of the Virgin Mary. However, in the Blue Army's Spanish magazine, Sol de Fatima, in the September 1985 issue, Sister Lúcia said that the ceremony did not fulfill the Virgin Mary's request, as there was no specific mention of Russia, and "many bishops attached no importance to it".

In 2001, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone issued a statement, claiming that he had met with Sister Lúcia, who reportedly told him, "I have already said that the consecration desired by Our Lady was made in 1984, and has been accepted in Heaven." Sister Lúcia died on February 13, 2005, without making any public statement of her own to settle the issue.

Controversy around the Third Secret

The Vatican kept the third secret under wraps until Easter 2000 – despite Lúcia's declaration that it could be released to the public after 1940. Several sources, including Canon Barthas and Cardinal Ottaviani, said that Sr. Lúcia insisted to them it must be released by 1960, saying, "by that time, it'll be more clearly understood." 1960 passed without any such announcement, which led to immense speculation over the content of the secret.

It seems clear that the third part of the secret revealed in the year 2000 was not the real secret, or at least not the full secret. This was long suspected because it was known that the third part of the Secret began with the words, "In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc." Sister Lúcia revealed this in her Fourth Memoir. These words and even this theme were not reflected by the version released by the Vatican on June 26, 2000.

Another argument for this revolved around the decision to release the secret much later than when specified by Sister Lúcia. It was thought that the secret might contain condemnatory remarks about the last pope (who obviously wouldn't have wanted to release it), or that it might contain inflammatory remarks about Russia. Instead, the third part of the secret as revealed was by far the most unspecific and ambiguous part (compared to earlier parts which said that if unconsecrated, "Russia will spread its errors around the world").

Cardinal Ratzinger said in November 1984 that the Secret would cause "sensationalism" and dealt with the "end times". This comment could not be understood if the Secret referred to the assassination attempt in 1981.

In fact, it is clear that the Popes have fulfilled their obligation to reveal the import of the Third Secret, but not by an open proclamation as had been expected, and thus most observers have overlooked it.

At a convent in Akita, Japan on 13 October 1973, by curious coincidence the same date as the major Fatima demonstration 56 years before, the apparition of Our Lady of All Peoples predicted "...a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment worse than the Deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and wipe out a great part of humanity. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead."

In the course of their investigations, the then Cardinal Ratzinger and Bishop Ito both observed that "the messages of Fatima and Akita are essentially the same." Since Akita was primarily concerned with the delivery of the message of the punishment to befall humanity, and no part of the Fatima prophecy so far published mentioned any such thing, then it is logical to conclude that the message of Akita in 1973 is also the Third Secret of Fatima.

On 11 November 1984, as reported in the Pauline Catholic magazine Jesus, Cardinal Ratzinger stated that he had "read the text of the Third Secret." When asked why he had not revealed it, he replied that "in the judgment of previous Popes, it adds nothing to what Christians must know respecting what is stated in the Book of Revelations."

This followed the report in the October 1981 issue of the German Catholic magazine Stimme des Glaubens of a discussion at Fulda in November 1980 when Pope John-Paul II had stated to a select group of German Catholics, in response to the question why he had not revealed the Third Secret of Fatima, "If you read that the oceans will inundate continents, and millions of people will die suddenly in a few minutes, once this is known, then in reality it is not necessary to insist on the publication of this Secret."

The fate of the three children

Image:FatimaChildren.jpg Lúcia reporting seeing the Virgin again in 1925 at the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, Spain, and was asked to convey the message of the First Saturday Devotions. A subsequent vision of the Christ Child Himself reiterated this request.

Lúcia was transferred to another convent in Tuy, Spain in 1928. In 1929, Lúcia reported that Mary returned and repeated her request for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.

Lúcia reportedly saw Mary in private visions off and on throughout her life. Most significant was the apparition in Rianxo, Spain in 1931, in which Jesus taught Sister Lúcia two prayers and delivered a message to give to the hierarchy of the Church.

In 1947, Sister Lúcia left the Dorothean order and joined the Carmelite order in a convent in Coimbra, Portugal. Lúcia died on February 13, 2005, at the age of 97. The date may have significance to Fatima devotees, since most of the major events of this vision series took place on the 13th day of the month. After her death, the Vatican, specifically Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (at that time, still head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) ordered her cell sealed off. It is believed this was because Sister Lúcia had continued to receive more revelations, and they wished to censor them, or perhaps simply to examine them in the course of proceedings for Lúcia's canonization.

Lúcia's cousins, the siblings Francisco (19081919) and Jacinta Marto (19101920), were both victims of the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1919.

Francisco and Jacinta were declared "venerable" by Pope John Paul II in a public ceremony at Fatima on 13 May1989. John Paul returned there on 13 May 2000, to declare them "blessed" (one step from sainthood - see Canonization for more on that process). Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.

Interestingly, during the second apparition on June 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary predicted the deaths of two of the children, although Lucia did not tell anybody about these predictions until 1941. Previously, she'd told them they would all eventually go to heaven. According to the 1941 account, on June 13, Lúcia asked the Virgin to take them to heaven soon. Mary replied, "Yes, I shall take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart." The younger children were ecstatic to hear that they'd be going to Heaven "soon" and did not keep this information secret. Family, friends and curious tourists all report Jacinta and Francisco joyfully and serenely predicting their deaths. Jacinta, in fact, accurately predicted the exact hour and detailed circumstances of her death, according to accounts by her own mother, by Lúcia, and by hospital staff.

Exhumed in 1935 and again in 1951, Jacinta's body was found incorrupt. Francisco's had decomposed.

Controversies of Fatima

Fatima is not without controversy. The alleged apparitions occurred during a period when Freemasons had gained influence in Portugal and attempted to limit the power of the Catholic Church following the 1910 revolution. Many Catholics felt persecuted, leading to a polarization of Portuguese society between the largely urban liberals and the largely rural and more conservative Catholics. Secularists may have viewed the apparitions as an attempt by the Church to reassert political control. The detention of the children by the provincial administrator reflects this concern.

Following the rise of the counter-revolutionaries in 1928, under General Carmona, the newly re-established government, and especially that of Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar, made devotion to Our Lady of Fatima one of the three elements of popular Portuguese nationalism: "Fado, Fatima, and Football" (commonly referred to as "the three F's").

There have been accusations of a campaign to cover up the message of Fatima by ecclesiastical authorities within the Catholic Church, including imposing an order of silence against Sister Lúcia. As Lúcia was already under orders of silence as a Carmelite sister, giving no interviews or statements to the public without permission, and since Lúcia continued to write private diaries and personal letters up until her death, this claim seems doubtful.

In the years prior to the alleged revelation of the Third Secret in 2000, many tabloids published articles claiming the Third Secret was a vision of the end of the world, or "earth changes" similar to those predicted by Edgar Cayce, which would come to pass in the very near future. Lúcia, when asked about these articles, allegedly denied that the third secret was anything like that, although in Catholic publications she referred enquirers to Chapters 8 to 13 of Revelations.

Influence of the apparitions

Although it has been used previously, Fátima has become a more common name for Portuguese females. The name of the city derives from a local Muslim princess named Fatima who, following her capture by Christian forces during the Moorish occupation of Portugal, was betrothed to the Count of Ourem, converted to Catholicism, and was baptised before marrying the Count in 1158. Her baptismal name was Oureana. The name of the town Ourém derives from Oureana

Our Lady Fatima Parish is one of the divisions of mainland Macau, a former Portuguese colony, now part of a special administration region of China.

Many Portuguese use a figure of Our Lady of Fatima as an amulet.

Political aspects

Conservative Catholics take the anti-Communist character of Lúcia dos Santos' messages very much to heart. The Blue Army of Our Lady is made up of Catholics and non-Catholics who believe that by dedicating themselves to daily prayer (specifically, of the Rosary) they can help to achieve world peace and an end to tyranny and leftist dictatorships. In 1952, a feature film, The Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima, was released. While adhering more or less accurately to the facts as reported by Lucia, her cousins, family members and witnesses, the film overplayed the role of socialist and Communist elements in Portuguese government as the "adversaries" of the visions. Most government opposition to the visions was motivated by concern for separation of church and state, not by atheistic or Communistic ideology.

Official position of the Roman Catholic Church

Catholics are not required to believe in a miraculous origin for the events at Fatima: as with other Church-approved visions such as those of Bernadette Soubirous, it is designated "worthy of belief".


The Lady of Fatima story is a key reference in the Tom Robbins novel Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates (2000).

See also

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

nl:Onze Lieve Vrouw van Fátima pt:Santuário de Fátima

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