THE THIRD PROPHECY
In 1944, Lucia wrote out the third prophecy, as she said she heard it as a 10-year-old girl in 1917, sealed it and presented it to Portugal's Bishop of Leiria. She told him that Our Lady's instructions were that it was not to be revealed to the public until 1960. The Bishop turned over the prophecy to the Vatican. In 1960, Paul John XXIII opened the sealed prophecy and read it, and the faithful anxiously awaited its promised revelation. But it was not to be. In apparent defiance of the Blessed Mother's instructions, the Pope refused to reveal the contents of the prophecy saying, "This prophecy does not relate to my time." According to Kathleen A. Keating, however, author of The Final Warning: Your Survival Guide to the New Millennium, "John XXIII fainted when he read the third secret because it specifically states, according to eyewitnesses, that the Pope would betray the flock and turn his sheep over to the slaughter devised by Lucifer himself. John XXIII fainted because he thought he would be the Pope who would open the door to Satan and that he would be the long awaited antipope."
It has been speculated that subsequent Popes also read the prophecy and likewise chose not to make it public. Now, 40 years later, the complete text of the prophecy has been released, but the controversy surrounding it is far from over.
On May 13, 2000 (the anniversary of the assassination attempt on him), the Pope visited the shrine at Fatima and made a surprise announcement that the secret would finally be revealed. The Vatican then told the world that the secret was a foretelling of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. The referred-to passage states: "...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..."
This scenario hardly describes the attack on John Paul by a lone gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, right in St. Peter's Square in May, 1981. The setting is not the same, there was no group of soldiers and the Pope, though seriously wounded, was not killed. Ironically, however, Ali Agca - even before the revelation of the secret was made - had said that he was compelled to try to kill the Pope as part of some divine plan, and that the act was related to the third secret of Fatima. And the Pope, shortly after he was shot, said he believed it was the hand of the Virgin Mary that deflected the attacker's bullet, allowing him to survive.
Since the revelation, the Vatican has been quick to downplay the significance of the prophecy. For one thing, Catholics are under no obligation to believe in the events at Fatima - they can take them or leave them since they are not part of church doctrine. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was a prefect for the Doctrine of Faith and is now Pope Benedict XVI, said about the prophecy: "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 cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. There is no immutable destiny. In the end, prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies." He seemed to be implying that the prayers of the faithful had deflected the terrible scene warned of in the prophecy.
Many Fatima devotees are not satisfied with what the Vatican has chosen to reveal, suspecting that they have either altered the message or not disclosed it in its entirety. Why, after all, were five successive Popes so reluctant to make the prophecy public? Ratzinger explained that the secret was kept because of the fuzziness of the message, which he said could by deciphered "only in the light of history." And when he was asked if the Fatima secrets pertained only to the past, he replied, "I think so."
Some Fatima devotees are not buying that explanation, however. "We still have a bigger punishment in store for us if we don't turn away from sin," said Christopher Ferrara, a spokesman for the Fatima Network in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. Others at the center called the Vatican's interpretation "a whitewash."
By contrast, Ratzinger put a positive spin on the prophecy. "It encourages us by showing that even in a world which was half destroyed," he said, "there is a greater force and death does not have the last word. At the end of a century and a millennium, we were able to propose this text to humanity and to the Church in a positive spirit. It indicates that we should use the power of love against the power of violence."
Kathleen A. Keating wrote of the recent revelation: "The Third Secret of Fatima is still a secret. In the press release issued by the Vatican today, the public was made privy to, at best, a watered down version of one sentence of the true secret. This ridiculous revelation bears no resemblance to the remarks made by Pope John Paul II in Fatima, May 13, 2000, when he said that we are in fact in the midst of Revelation-Chapter 12, verse 3: And another sign in heaven; and behold a great Red Dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns; and on his heads seven diadems… I have a source, deep inside the Vatican, who let me know some time ago that what would be revealed today would only distantly resemble the actual Third Secret, that it would be pared down, containing very little fact."
Were the messages at Fatima prophecies of our future, warnings about possible outcomes or just imaginings inspired by the faith of three small children? Like most such things, it comes down to what you choose to believe.