Secrets of Fatima

Mystery and intrigue surround the secrets of Fatima, especially the third which for decades was considered too explosive to release to the public. Its eventual publication did nothing to quash the conspiracy theories

Two fatima children
A statue of the lady of Fatima with Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the young shepherds she is said to have entrusted with the secrets. Photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro.

The three secrets of Fatima are said to have been given to the young shepherds during the third apparition of the Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. In essence they consist of prophecies, a vision of hell and instructions for spreading the word of God on earth.

The secrets have been the subject of intense speculation and debate for many decades, especially the third which was hidden by the Vatican until its release in 2000. The official interpretation is the Fatima secrets are about hell, the two World Wars and the shooting of Pope John Paul II.

The Lady of Fatima reportedly told the children not to divulge the secrets. It was not until 1941 when Lúcia, at the request of the Bishop of Leiria, revealed the first two secrets for a book on Jacinta. In 1943, after being ordered by the Bishop to reveal the third secret, she wrote it down and sealed it in an envelope. She said this should not be opened until 1960 when its contents would be clearer.

When 1960 arrived the Vatican, for reasons never made clear, decided not to release the third secret of Fatima. It was not until 2000 that it finally bowed to pressure from the public and conspiracy theorists and published what it claimed to be the secret. However many claim that the text they published is not the entire secret as revealed by Lúcia.

The following are the wording of the secrets as recorded by Lúcia. The first describes a vision of hell:

First secret of Fatima

‘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.’

Second secret of Fatima

The second secret predicted the end of the First World War and warned there would be an even worse war to come if mankind continued to offend God. It also said this war would be presaged by strange lights in the sky. In 1938 a very rare and spectacular occurrence of the Northern Lights was seen over Europe and in parts of Africa and Asia. A year later World War II started. This prediction has, however, been criticised by some who point out that the second secret was not disclosed until August 1941, after the war had begun. According to Lúcia the words of the Lady of Fatima were:

‘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 Pope Pius XI. 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.

‘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.’

Third secret of Fatima

When the third secret of Fatima was finally released its contents proved to be so unremarkable that there was widespread scepticism about the Vatican’s reasons for keeping it hidden so long. It consists of a series of visions that have been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some say it foretells of the church coming under attack, others that it predicts the assassination attempt on the pope. The exact words, described by Lúcia, were:

‘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!’.

‘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.

‘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.’