Our Lady of Fatima is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary with respect to reported apparitions of her to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months in 1917, starting on 13 May. The three children were Lucia Santos and her cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The title of Our Lady of the Rosary is also sometimes used in reference to the same apparition, because the children related that the apparition specifically identified herself as the "Lady of the Rosary". It is also common to see a combination of these titles, i.e. Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. The events at Fatima gained particular fame due to their elements of prophecy and eschatology, particularly with regard to possible world war. The reported apparitions at Fatima were officially declared "worthy of belief" by the Catholic Church.
On Sunday, 13 May 1917, ten year old Lucia Santos and her younger cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were tending sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fatima in Portugal. Lucia described seeing a woman.
"brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun."
Further appearances are reported to have taken place on the thirteenth day of the month in June and July. In these the woman exhorted the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners. The children subsequently wore tight cords around their waists to cause pain, abstained from drinking water on hot days, and performed other works of penance. Most importantly, Lucia said that the lady had asked them to pray the rosary every day, repeating many times that the rosary was the key to personal and world peace. This had particular resonance since many Portuguese men, including relatives of the visionaries, were then fighting in World War I. According to Lucia's account, in the course of her appearances, the woman confided to the children three secrets, now known as the Three Secrets of Fatima.
Thousands of people flocked to Fatima and Aljustrel in the ensuing months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On 13 August 1917, the provincial administrator and anticlerical Freemason, Artur Santos(no relation), believing that the events were politically 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 first consoled by the inmates, and later led them in praying the rosary. The administrator interrogated the children and unsuccessfully attempted to get them to divulge the content of the secrets. In the process, he tried to convince the children that he would boil them one by one in a pot of oil unless they confessed. The children, however, resisted. That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on the 13th, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary on 19 August at nearby Valinhos.
Miracle of the Sun
As early as July 1917 it was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on 13 October, so that all would believe. What transpired became known as "Miracle of the Sun". A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes. Lucia called out to the crowd to look at the sun. Sometime while Lucia was pointing towards the sun and claiming to have visions of various religious figures in the sky, it is believed that the sun appeared to change colors and to rotate like a fire wheel. For some the sun appeared to fall from the sky before retreating, for others it zig-zagged. The phenomenon is claimed to have been witnessed by most people in the crowd as well as people many miles away.
Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O SÃ©culo (Portugal's most influential newspaper, 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 approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat". The special reporter for the 17 October 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 movement or other phenomenon of the sun was registered by scientists at the time. According to contemporary reports from poet Afonso Lopes Vieira and school teacher Delfina Lopes with her students and other witnesses in the town of Alburita, the solar phenomena were visible from up to fourty kilometers away. Despite these assertions, not all witnesses reported seeing the sun "dance". Some people only saw the radiant colors, and others, including some believers, saw nothing at all.
Three Secrets of Fatima
First two secrets
The first secret was a vision of Hell, which Lucia describes in her Third Memoir, as follows:
"Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror."
The second secret included Mary's instructions on how to save souls from Hell and convert the world to the Roman Catholic faith, written in 1917:
"You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated 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. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. 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. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
The third secret, a vision of the death of the Pope and other religious figures, was transcribed by the Bishop of Leiria and reads:
"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: â€˜Penance, Penance, Penance!' And we saw in an immense light that is God: â€˜something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White â€˜we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, Religious men and women 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, Religious men and women, 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."
Fate of the Three Children
Lucia reported seeing the Virgin Mary again in 1925 at the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, Galicia (Spain). This time she said she was asked to convey the message of the First Saturday Devotions. By her account a subsequent vision of Christ as a child reiterated this request. Lucia was transferred to another convent in Tui or Tuy, Galicia in 1928. In 1929, Lucia reported that Mary returned and repeated her request for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Lucia reportedly saw Mary in private visions periodically throughout her life. Most significant was the apparition in Rianxo, Galicia in 1931, in which she said that Jesus visited her, taught her two prayers and delivered a message to give to the church's hierarchy. In 1938, Lucia saw the blood-red "Fire In The Skies Event" that was seen throughout Europe and into Russia, taking this as an ominous sign of war as described in the apparition.
In 1947, Sister Lucia left the Dorothean order and joined the Carmelite order in a convent in Coimbra, Portugal. Lucia died on 13 February 2005, at the age of 97. After her death, the Vatican, specifically Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ordered her cell sealed off. It is believed this was because Sister Lucia had continued to receive more revelations and the evidence needed to be examined in the course of proceedings for her possible canonization. Lucia's cousins, the siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto were both victims of the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-20. Francisco and Jacinta were declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in a public ceremony at Fatima on 13 May 1989. Pope John Paul II returned there on 13 May 2000 to declare them 'blessed'. Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.
In 1941, Lucia claimed that the Virgin Mary had predicted the deaths of two of the children during the second apparition on 13 June 1917. Some accounts, including the testimony of Olimpia Marto (mother of the two younger children) state that her children did not keep this information secret and ecstatically predicted their own deaths many times to her and to curious pilgrims. According to the 1941 account, on 13 June, Lucia asked the Virgin if the three children would go to heaven when they died. She said that she heard Mary replied,
"Yes, I shall take Francisco and Jacinta 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."
Exhumed in 1935 and again in 1951, Jacinta's face was found incorrupt. Francisco's had decomposed.
Controversy around the Third Secret
The Vatican withheld the third secret until 26 June 2000 AD despite Lucia's declaration that it could be released to the public after 1960. Several sources, including Canon Barthas and Cardinal Ottaviani, said that Lucia insisted to them that it must be released by 1960, saying, "by that time, it will be more clearly understood." When 1960 passed without any such announcement, immense speculation over the content of the secret materialized.
Some sources claim 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 Lucia revealed this in her Fourth Memoir. These words and even this theme were not reflected by the version released by the Vatican on 26 June 2000.
Another argument for this revolved around the decision to release the secret much later than when specified by Sister Lucia. It was thought that the secret might contain condemnatory remarks about the last pope, 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.
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:
"Because, according to the judgment of the Popes, it adds nothing to what a Christian must know concerning what derives from Revelation: i.e., a radical call for conversion; the absolute importance of history; the dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian, and therefore of the world. And then the importance of the end times. If it is not made public - at least for the time being - it is in order to prevent religious prophecy from being mistaken for a quest for the sensational."
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."
However, in another interview, Pope John Paul II indicated that the entire secret of Fatima could be summarized in the idea that prayer, especially the Rosary, is the remedy against all manner of evil. On 15 November 1966 Pope Paul VI revised the Code of Canon Law, striking down canons 1399 and 2318 which, among other things, had prohibited and penalized the publication of any material concerning any apparitions (approved or not) without beforehand obtaining a bishops imprimatur. After the revision, therefore, anyone in the Church was permitted to publish freely on Marian apparitions, including those at Fatima. Yet Sister Lucia was still forbidden to reveal the Fatima secret. Although not sure she remained under an order of silence until her death in February 2005, unable to speak freely about Fatima without special permission from the Vatican.
Fatima prayers and reparations
All Roman Catholics recite prayers based on Our Lady of Fatima . Lucia later revealed that she and her cousins had several visions of an angel in 1916. Calling himself the "Angel of Portugal" and the "Angel of Peace," he taught them to bow with their heads to the ground and to say "O God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you." Sometime later he returned and taught them a Eucharistic devotion now known as the Angel Prayer. Some Fatima devotees identify this angel as Muriel since he is traditionally known as the Angel of Portugal.
Lucia said that the lady emphasized Acts of Reparation and prayers to console Jesus for the sins of the world. Lucia said Mary's words were "When you make some sacrifice, say 'O Jesus, it is for your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'" At the first apparition, Lucia wrote, the children were so moved by the radiance they perceived that they involuntarily said "Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament." Lucia also heard Mary ask for these words to be added to the Rosary, after the Gloria Patri prayer: "O my Jesus, pardon us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need." In the tradition of Marian visitations, the "conversion of sinners" does not necessarily mean a religious conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, but rather a general repentance and attempt to amend one's life according to the teachings of Jesus.
An estimated 70,000 people assembled to witness the last of the promised appearances of the Lady in the Cova da Iria on 13 October 1917. The widely reported miracle of the sun was a factor that led to Fatima quickly becoming a major centre of pilgrimage. Two million pilgrims visited the site in the decade following the events of 1917. A small chapel - the Capelinha - was built by local people on the site of the apparitions. The construction was neither encouraged nor hindered by the Catholic Church authorities. On 13 May 1920, pilgrims defied government troops to install a statue of the Virgin Mary in the chapel, and a first official mass was celebrated there in January 1924. A hostel for the sick was begun in that year. In 1927 the first rector of the sanctuary was appointed and a set of Stations of the Cross were erected on the mountain road. The foundation stone for the present basilica was laid the next year.
1930 was the year both of official church recognition of the apparition events as "worthy of belief" and the granting of a papal indulgence to pilgrims visiting Fatima. In 1935 the bodies of the visionaries Jacinta and Francisco were reinterred in the basilica. The coronation of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima there in 1946 drew such large crowds that the entrance to the site had to be barred.
Today pilgrimage to the site goes on all year round and additional chapels, hospitals and other facilities have been constructed. The principal pilgrimage festivals take place on the thirteenth day of each month, from May to October, on the anniversaries of the original appearances. The largest crowds gather on 13 May and 13 October, when up to a million pilgrims have attended to pray and witness processions of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima , both during the day and by the light of tens of thousands of candles at night.
Conservative Catholics take the anti-Communist character of Lucia 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 put an end to the error of communism. In 1952, a feature film, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, was released. Critics held that the film overplayed the role of socialist and other leftist elements in Portuguese government as the "adversaries" of the visions. They state that since the government was controlled not by socialists but by Freemasons at the time, most government opposition to the visions would have been motivated by concern for separation of church and state, not by atheistic or communistic ideology. Other critics have stated that only the enemies of the message propose such a belief.
Official position of the Catholic Church
Private revelations do not form part of the deposit of faith of the Roman Catholic Church and its members are not bound to believe in any of them. However, as a matter of prudence, assent would normally be expected of a Catholic based on the discernment of the Church and its judgment that an apparition is worthy of belief. After a canonical enquiry the visions of Fatima were officially declared "worthy of belief" in October 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria- Fatima.
Popes and Fatima
Ecclesiastical approbation does not imply that the Church provides an infallible guarantee on the supernatural nature of the event. Theologians like Karl Rahner argued however, that Popes, by authoritatively fostering the Marian veneration in places like Fatima and Lourdes, motivate the faithful into an acceptance of divine faith Popes Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II all voiced their acceptance of the supernatural origin of the Fatima events in unusually clear and strong terms. After the local bishop had declared that (1) the visions of the three children are credible, (2) the veneration of the Blessed Virgin is permitted, the Portuguese bishops approved and declared the genuine supernatural nature of the event. The Vatican responded with granting indulgences and special masses to be celebrated in Fatima. In 1939, Eugenio Pacelli, who in 1917 was consecrated bishop on 13 May, on the day of the first apparition, was elected to the papacy as Pius XII, and became the Pope of Fatima. One year after World War II had started, Sister Lucia asked Pope Pius XII to consecrate the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She repeated this request on December 2, 1940, stating in the year 1929, the Blessed Lady requested in another apparition the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She promised the conversion of Russia from its errors.
On 13 May 1942, the 25th anniversary of the first apparition and the silver jubilee of the episcopal consecration of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican published the Message and Secret of Fatima. On 31 October 1942, Pope Pius XII, in a radio address, informed the people of Portugal about the apparitions of Fatima, consecrating the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin with specific mention of Russia. On 8 December 1942, the Pontiff officially and solemnly declared this consecration in a ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. On 13 May 1946, Cardinal Masalla, the personal delegate of Pius XII, crowned in his name Our Lady of Fatima , as the Pope issued a second message about Fatima:
"The faithful virgin never disappointed the trust, put on her. She will transform into a fountain of graces, physical and spiritual graces, over all of Portugal, and from there, breaking all frontiers, over the whole Church and the entire world".
On 1 May 1948, in Auspicia Quaedam, Pope Pius XII requested the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of every Catholic family, parish and diocese.
"It is our wish, consequently, that wherever the opportunity suggests itself, this consecration be made in the various dioceses as well as in each of the parishes and families."
On 18 May 1950, the Pope again sent a message to the people of Portugal regarding Fatima:
"May Portugal never forget the heavenly message of Fatima , which, before anybody else she was blessed to hear. To keep Fatima in your heart and to translate Fatima into deeds, is the best guarantee for ever more graces".
In numerous additional messages, and in his encyclicals Fulgens Corona (1953), and Ad Caeli Reginam (1954), Pius XII encouraged the veneration of the Virgin in Fatima.
At the end of the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and, in an unusual gesture, announced his own pilgrimage to the sanctuary on the fiftieth anniversary of the first apparition. On 13 May 1967, he prayed at the shrine together with Sister Lucia. This historic gesture further cemented the official support for Fatima . Pope John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life following the assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981. He followed the footsteps of Paul VI, on 12 May 1987, to express his gratitude to the Virgin Mary for saving his life. The following day, he renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin.