Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has again been forced to deny rumours about the Third Secret of Fatima.
First, some background.
On May 13, 1917, Francisco and Jacinta Marto — 9 and 7 years old — and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were with their sheep near the Portuguese town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary. The Virgin Mary would appear to the children on the 13th of each month until October.
In 1930, the Catholic Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have all visited Fatima during their pontificates. Pope Francis plans to visit Fatima in 2017, the 100th anniversary.
The message of Fatima can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer. However, it has gained a lot of notoriety over the so-called Third Secret.
According to one of the visionaries — Sr. Lúcia — on July 13, 1917, Our Lady entrusted the children with three secrets, which she later wrote down and delivered to the pope.
According to the official Catholic interpretation, the first two secrets — which were revealed in 1941 — involve hell and the devastation of the First and Second World Wars.
In the 1950s and 1960, at the height of the Cold War, rumours abounded as to the dire predictions made in the Third Secret — not yet revealed. One of the apparent requests of the Virgin was to pray for the conversion of Russia. Only this would save the world from an apocalyptic disaster.
While the Vatican accepted the supernatural character of Fatima, it never succumbed to Fatima devotees whose promises and demands continued to spiral beyond reason as they promote a whole “theology” about Fatima.
Pope John Paul II decided to reveal the Third Secret in the Jubilee Year of 2000. He had credited the Virgin of Fatima with saving his life when he was shot and wounded at the Vatican on May 13, 1981. The secret was released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was signed by its then-secretary, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone.
He implied that the secret was about the 20th century persecution of Christians that culminated in the failed assassination of Pope John Paul II. In an accompanying commentary, Cardinal Ratzinger published a theological commentary which stated: “A careful reading of the text of the so-called third ‘secret’ of Fatima . . . will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled.”
A new denial was needed May 21 this year. Some reports quoted Rev. Ingo Dollinger as saying Ratzinger told him in 2000 there is still a part of the Third Secret that has not been published. Vatican Radio reported Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has said he never told anyone the publication of the Third Secret was incomplete and he confirmed the document was published in its totality.
The Holy See press office said, “Pope emeritus Benedict XVI declares ‘never to have spoken with Professor Dollinger about Fatima,’ clearly affirming that the remarks attributed to Professor Dollinger on the matter ‘are pure inventions and absolutely untrue’ . . . .”
Fatima devotees don’t give up easily. Expect more “tribulations” this jubilee year.