Here is the text of the third part of the Secret revealed by Our Lady to the three seers of Fatima. Elements of the interpretation of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith are examined, and a tentative interpretation is offered
By Fr. Justin Swanton
At the end of last month the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the text of the third part of the Secret of Fatima, which included:
Here follows the text of the third part of the Secret. There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of this text.
Text of the message
The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917.
I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out ,flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: `Penance, Penance. Penance!'. And we saw in an immense light that is God: `something similar to how people appear in a Mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White `we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
What is one to make of it?
Cardinal Ratzinger in his commentary has this to say: "And so we come to the final question: What is the meaning of the "secret" of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: "….the events to which the third part of the `secret' of Fatima refers now seem part of the past". Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to 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"
Bishop Fellay, in his "Note on the Presentation of the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima", criticizes this interpretation:
"l. We think that the message of Fatima such as it is presented here is profoundly altered in its efficacity: the conversion of sinners. The anguished call full of foreboding of Our Lady, the call to conversion, the call to do penance, is not longer bound up with a threat….since the terrible events are now presumed to belong to the past.
2. Note that the text of the two first secrets as presented in the document of the Vatican is taken from the third memoir of Sister Lucy (of August 31, 1941) and not from the fourth, dated December 8, 1941, where that famous phrase can be found: "In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved." Despite the fact that Sr. Lucy had declared at the time that this phrase showed the sense of the third Secret, it is not found in the Secret; by a choice of text, this important indication for an understanding of the vision given in the third part of the Secret is mentioned only in a footnote.
In other words, the reference to an internal crisis ("the dogma of the Faith") of the Church vanishes. All that is left in view is the attack by exterior enemies, reduced to atheistic Communists who have since disappeared…."
The true interpretation of the message
What follows is a tentative interpretation of my own of the third part of the Secret, after consulting with Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. It does not pretend to be the 'official' interpretation of the Society of St. Pius X.
The third part is written in prophetical language, rather like the prophetical language of Holy Scripture, eg the Apocalypse. It is a symbolic vision, the symbolism of which can be made clear by comparing the images used with their use in the Scriptures, and with the present situation since, according to Sr. Lucy, the third part would be clear after 1960.
The Angel and the call to penance
"We saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand. Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: `Penance, Penance, Penance! "'.
To quote Cardinal Ratzinger: "The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword."
Our Lady holds the looming chastisement of the Angel in abeyance "and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance."
To quote Bishop Tissier: "As for the penance required try the Angel, it is truly at the centre of the j message of Fatima with the reparative devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; this penance is penance in the plain sense of the word…."
The Bishop in White
“And we saw in an immense light that is God: `something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White `we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. "
To quote Cardinal Ratzinger: "God remains immensurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours. Human persons appear as in a mirror. We must always keep in mind the limits of the vision itself, which here are indicated visually. The future appears only "in a mirror dimly" (I Cor 13:12)."
There is no reason to think differently from Sr. Lucy that the "Bishop dressed in White" is the Pope. Whether he is the present Pope or a future pope is unclear. It is unlikely, taking the rest of the vision into account, that he is a past pope.
The Hierarchy, laity, and the half-ruined city
"Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins ''I and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way".
The big Cross is martyrdom, moral and even physical, that much of the hierarchy and laity will undergo.
The "big city half in ruins" cannot be an image for the world, as that would make the third part of the Secret merely a repetition of the second: "When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father if my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated…."
It is clearly the Church: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden" (Mt 5: 14). A city half in ruins is an accurate image of the Church since 1960, a Church in which the "dogma of the Faith" may be preserved in Portugal, but is lost elsewhere.
The corpses the Holy Father meets on the way are not martyrs, as he prays for their souls, whereas the souls of martyrs of course go straight to heaven. These bodies are found in the city half in ruins: they are clearly those who are spiritually dead, concurrent with or consequent to the half-ruined state of the Church.
The "pain and sorrow" of the Holy Father seem to be caused by the sight of the half-ruined city and its corpses. The Pope understands the plight of the Church and grieves for her.
"Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after '; another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the arms of the Cross there ' were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”
A real martyrdom of the hierarchy and many religious and layfolk seems indicated here, in order to regenerate the Church.
It is interesting to note that the symbolic description of the crisis in the Church is sufficiently clear if one already has an understanding of the crisis, but not so if one dues not. The third part of the Secret is a great vindication by Our Lady of our refusal to accept the reforms of Vatican II, and of our stand for the Faith against the attempts of the Church's enemies within the Church to ruin it. However, it will not, by itself, bring the crisis to an end. Just as God will not force men to accept his existence and his will by a dramatic display of his power or presence, in the same way the Mother of God will not force churchmen to accept the will of her Son by a dramatically clear and detailed prophecy of the harm they have caused. The message is clear enough for those who have good will to see. "They have Abraham and the prophets."
It remains for us to persevere in the fight by fervently practising the Faith we are fighting for, and more especially, by doing the penance the Angel orders of us. Penance is especially important in our time, since the development of creature comforts has gone hand in hand with the loss of moral fibre. Resisting sin and persevering in virtue takes effort - those who drift, drift into hell-and penance is a very effective means of overcoming sin (besides paying the debt for it) and strengthening oneself in the service of God. This, to repeat the words of Bishop Tissier, is the very centre of the message of Fatima.