The third secret of Fatima is the one that more than all the others is still debated. Because it wasn’t expressed in a clear and uninterpretable way like the other two, and because it is periodically possible to read it again as a reference to the major world events that are recently taking shape: the experts’ analysis have revealed the possibility that the third secret of Fatima referred to the Covid-19 pandemic that began in 2019, or the possibility of a third world war in the nuclear age (an hypothesis heavily discussed after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022). It therefore remains an important question to understand what that third secret really predicted.
What does the third secret of Fatima say?
The third secret of Fatima was written separately from the other two by Lucia (one of the three little shepherds who received the secrets from Our Lady) and it sounds in a decidedly cryptic way:
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.The third secret of Fatima
This part of the secret, especially in the last sentences, echoes some passages from the book of Revelation by John of Patmos and the great theologian, Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (in 2000 when it was revealed), the he interpreted it as a warning from Our Lady and as a foresight of martyrdom and the sacrifice of the martyrs of the Church. In particular, he related to the great devotion that John Paul II had towards Our Lady of Fatima, with specific reference to the 1981 attack by Alì Agca. The pope himself, a victim of the attack, believed that Our Lady had diverted the trajectory of the bullet, preventing him from being killed. With this interpretation, the “bishop dressed in white” would be Carol Wojtyla, even if the same Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that it was only an “attempt at interpretation”, due to the highly symbolic nature of the message that could refer to a persecution and to a decline of the Church as a whole, not attributable to precise historical or biographical facts. And on the disputes generated by the interpretation of the third secret we will focus attention in the following paragraph.
The interpretations on the third secret
Even before the revelation of the secret, differences had emerged on the reading of the third part of the secret of Fatima, supported by the publication of texts different from the one mentioned above, as presumptively original by Sister Lucia. In 1963 the German magazine Neues Europa published a version of the text, in which elements recalling a world nuclear war and an unprecedented crisis of the Catholic Church appeared. Some sources narrate that Luois Emrich, the editor of the magazine, would have received this version from an eminent exponent of Vatican diplomacy and that, even, Pope John XXIII would have given a mandate to Cardinal Ottaviani to prepare a statement drawn from the original text, to be sent to leaders of world superpowers to avoid a third world war. Some scholars, however, highlighted the inconsistencies of the structure of the text, considering it a fake. But it is necessary to emphasize that its veracity was never officially denied by the Catholic Church, even if Cardinal Ottaviani himself said that a secret that had not yet been revealed could not be discussed.
In the period following the revelation of the third secret, eminent scholars of the affair, including Father Nicholas Gruner, Antonio Socci, and the Italian-American Ferrara, agreed that the third secret of Fatima had not yet been fully revealed, highlighting that a fourth part capable of explaining the third would be missing. Furthermore, many interpreters have pointed out that the scene described in the third part of the revelation of Fatima does not represent in reality with the attack on John Paul II in 1981. In that case it was a specific event well identified, while the scene described from Sister Lucia it appears much more symbolically apocalyptic and linked to an eschatological trend.
The scenario described by the already revealed part of the secret is however an apocalyptic scenario, which could be linked to many tragic events in modern history. A possible more complete interpretation could be given if all the parts are revealed, but the Catholic Church has not (yet) officially revealed other parts communicated by Lucia. In this sense, and as a tragic global event that transformed the world, the Coronavirus pandemic has also been associated with the Third Secret of Fatima. But so far there are no clear elements that link the secret to this event.
The hypotheses, relating to the possibility that the interpretations on the third secret of Fatima have been explained only in part, date back to a few years ago, as the Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger himself, in the period of his singular pontificate, had repeatedly stated. The same eminent theologian, however, when he held the position of head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body within the Vatican Curia heir to the ancient Inquisition, had hastened to liquidate the third secret of Fatima, such as the prediction of the attention to John Paul II which took place in 1981, despite all the inconsistencies we have mentioned. In particular, the fact that Lucia may have been the custodian of a secret as great as the looming of a third world war of apocalyptic scope is not a fantasy drawn out by the catastrophists, in the wake of the tragic events of recent days, following of the Russian invasion on Ukrainian territory.
There is talk of a mysterious untranslated attachment and strong pressure on the shepherdess not to reveal the content of her visions in full, as they are too shocking. One wonders why the Church should have kept such a dramatic truth hidden that, instead, it could serve as a warning for peoples to proceed with more caution in their mutual relations. These are mere inferences which, at the moment, cannot find an incontrovertible answer, as they are not supported by certain proofs. One could think of a desperate attempt to avert the terrible scourge, through prayers and invocations to the Virgin Mary, the protagonist of the extraordinary apparitions or the desire to avoid alarmism and panic in the world population, generating unrest and social disintegration.
It is surprising to note how the members of the “Fatimite” movement, led by Nicholas Gruner, convinced supporters that the third secret of Fatima concerns precisely the looming of a third world conflict, have petitioned the pope for Russia to be explicitly consecrated to Immaculate Heart of Mary, as the Virgin herself would have asked during the apparitions of 1917.
And it is precisely from the immense Russian territory that the first signs of a very dangerous war escalation began.
It should be added that the prediction of an apocalyptic conflict is foreseen in almost all ancient cultures, even if perhaps the best known expression is that described in the book of Revelation (Revelation) written by John of Patmos, attributed in a pseudo- epigraphic to the evangelist of the same name, which speaks of a devastating Armageddon, transfigured into a war in the Heavens that could well symbolize a planetary catastrophe. Another interesting coincidence are the references to Gog and Magog, cited both in the Bible and in the Koran. In particular, Gog and Magog are mentioned in the book of Revelation as the rulers of the populations who would have unleashed Armageddon. In them the ancients glimpsed the simulacra of terrible leaders from the East, so as to impress the contemporary collective imagination and identify them with Russia and China.
And, in this regard, the signs of the times are not encouraging: starting from September 2001, with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, we have witnessed a continuous succession of local geopolitical conflicts, financial crises and drastic and unimaginable measures of restriction of personal liberty, such as following the covid-19 pandemic.
There is no shortage of those who link the “third secret of Fatima” to the prophecy of Malachi on the last pope, which some identify in Josè Mario Bergoglio, the only Jesuit pope in the history of the Catholic Church and in command of the vessel of Christ, in an era of unprecedented crises, such as the spread of scandals due to pedophilia or those of a financial nature that began in the mid-twentieth century. “The bishop dressed in white who climbs to the foot of the Cross” could be Francis himself or a possible successor to him. The vision described by Lucia could be understood in a metaphorical way, therefore as an unprecedented period of crisis for the Church, exposed to internal attacks and external persecutions. Or this view could also be interpreted literally and, therefore, there could be a large-scale destructive event or an attack on the Vatican with real weapons. Let’s not overlook the fact that St. Peter’s Basilica is considered one of the most sensitive targets of all, not only for Islamic fundamentalism, but for a wide range of international terrorist organizations. Frequent and repeated threats to hoist the Islamic flag on the dome of St. Peter’s are known.
In a context of general crisis, we cannot even forget the famous sentence of Paul VI, regarding the “smoke of Satan” that was penetrating the Church and, in the light of this consideration, the third secret of Fatima could refer to the great “Apostasy”, that is, the abandonment of genuine faith by believers, already announced in the book of Revelation by John of Patmos.