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The Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal
Marian Apparitions

By Alison Rigby

This section of the site will focus on the Mary's apocalyptic messages given to the children at Fatima. We shall discuss the actual messages and the different interpretations and meanings of such groups as the Catholic Church and Marian cults. We will also focus on their relevance to the political events of their time and their significance in the following years.


Since this site focuses on Fatima's apocalyptic aspect, we will only spend a brief time on the details of the actual events.

Fatima 1917 - Between May and October, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her younger cousins, Jacinta and Francisco. She asked them to return to the field of Cova de Iria on the thirteenth day of every month. In subsequent appearances she asked the children to pray and say Rosaries for sinners. She also stressed penance, prayer, and the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She also revealed three secrets to the children, which contain apocalyptic warnings. Her final appearance occurred on October 13, 1917, where a crowd of 70, 00 people witnessed a solar phenomenon. Many reported the sun "dancing" across the sky. In 1930, this appearance was recognized by the Church. The two younger children died shortly after the visions, in which Mary told them of their approaching fate. Lucia still lives as a nun.


The secrets revealed to the children have been the topic of great controversy ever since the visions at Fatima. The third secret, however, is by far the most infamous. The withholding of this secret has generated great speculation and has produced many conspiracy theories about the Catholic Church.

Let us look at the first two messages and their meanings for both the Catholic Church and various Marian sects. Here is the text of the first secret:

"You have seen Hell where the souls of sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do as I shall ask, many souls will be converted and there will be peace."

This message was also accompanied by a vision of Hell. We can see apocalyptic tones in this message. Mary warns that unless there is devotion and conversion, the people of the world will go to Hell. If the people do follow through, however, a new, peaceful world will be established. Now let's view the second secret:

"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 to 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 Reparations 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 will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."

The Church's Position The

The Catholic Church does recognize this vision, as is apparent in the 1930 approval of the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. The Church, however, dismisses the apocalyptic associations that people attribute to the messages. Rather, they stress the importance of the message's call for repentance and devotion. The Church focuses on the spiritual disaster, which is the damnation of souls, not the apparent physical disasters. The Church does recognize the foretelling of the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII, and it also emphasizes the message's call to the Consecration of Russia, which Pope John Paul established in 1984. The message also affirms the Church's anti- communist position. However, the Church steers away from any fatalistic meaning, stressing that foretold events are a function of peoples' behavior and are not predetermined. Mary is warning us of what will happen if things don't change.

The Sectarian Position

The Sectarian Position mainly coincides with the Church's position, although most are more accepting of the fatalistic and apocalyptic meaning, paying attention to close details. For example, people point an "unknown light" appearing all over Europe as the signal of WWII. This light occurred in 1938, so they argue that the war actually began in 1938. They also point to WWII as the repercussion, warned by Mary, to the prior political activity in Russia, such as the Bolshevik Revolution and the slaying of Catholics. When Pope John Paul consecrated Russia, sectarians highlighted that afterwards the USSR split and communism was thrown out.

Some sects are more extreme in their beliefs of the messages' aocalyptic meaning, calling Mary, "the Woman of Revelation of the Apocalypse," and pointing out her fatalistic accuracy in predicting the deaths of Jacinta and Francisco.

Aside from the first two messages, the third secret has generated it's own following and speculation. Many groups have spent years discussing the secret's apocalypticism, which is hinted at by comments from Lucia, herself, and other church authorities. Their comments have continued to fuel belief in the secret's apocalyptic importance. Here are some comments by Lucia and certain church officials:

"It's(Third Secret) in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse, read them." -Lucia

"The dangers threatening the faith, the importance of the last times, and the fact that the prophesies contained in this third secret correspond to what Scripture announces." -Cardinal Ratzinger(has read the third secret)

"When you read that oceans will inundate entire continents, and millions of men will suddenly have life snatched from them in a second - if you know this, there is no need to publish the secret." -Pope John Paul II

"This Secret is the key to avoiding that which Pope John Paul II at Fatima called "the almost Apocalyptic menaces looming over the nations and mankind as a whole." - http://www.fatima.org/third.html

The following of the secret's disclosure is so extreme that some have even published their versions of the secret, claiming authenticity and insight on the future apocalypse. Here is someone's published version:

"Do not be troubled, dear child. I am the Mother of God speaking to you and begging you to proclaim in My name the following message to the entire world.
In doing so, you will meet with strong opposition. But be strong in faith and you will triumph over all opposition. Listen carefully and remember what I tell you: the good people must become better. They must implore God to forgive the sins they have committed and will in the future commit. You ask me for a sign so all may comprehend the words which I am addressing to mankind through you. You have just beheld that miracle of the sun. Everybody saw it - believers and unbelievers. And now announce in My name.
A great chastisement will come over all mankind; not today or tomorrow, but in the second half of the twentieth century. What I had already announced at LaSalette through the children Melanie and Maximin, I repeat to you now. Humanity has not developed as God desired. Mankind has been sacrilegious and has trampled underfoot the gifts of God.
No longer does order reign anywhere. Even in the highest places Satan reigns and directs the course of events. Satan will succeed in infiltrating into the highest positions in the Church. Satan will succeed in sowing confusion in the minds of scientists who will design weapons that can destroy great portions of mankind in a few minutes. Satan will gain hold of heads of nations and will cause these destructive weapons to be mass-produced.
If mankind will not oppose these evils, I will be obliged to let fall My Son's arm. If the chief rulers of the world and of the Church will not actively oppose these evils, I will ask God My Father to visit His Justice upon mankind. Then will God punish mankind even more severely and harshly than He did at the time of the great Deluge. The great and the powerful will perish with the small and the weak.
A time of very severe trial is also coming for the Church. Cardinals will oppose Cardinals and Bishops will oppose Bishops. Satan will enter into their very midst. In Rome also, there will occur great changes. What is rotten will fall, and what falls must not be retained. The Church will be obscured, and all the world will be thrown into great confusion.
A great, great war will come in the second half of the twentieth century. Fire and smoke will fall from heaven, and the waters of the ocean will turn to steam, throwing their foam to the very sky. Whatever is standing will be overturned. Millions of people will die. Those surviving will envy the dead. Distress, misery and desolation will be found the world over.
The time is drawing near, and the abyss is ever deepening. There will be no escape: the good will die with the wicked, the great with the lowly, the princes of the Church with the faithful, the rulers of the nations with their people. Death will reign everywhere, raised to triumph by erring men, the helpers of Satan who will be the masters of the earth. These evils will come at a time when no one expects it: nevertheless it must come as punishment and revenge in accordance with God's plan.
The age of ages is coming, the end of all ends if mankind will not repent and be converted, and if this conversion does not come from rulers of the world and of the Church. Woe and greater woe to mankind if conversion does not occur.
Later, however, those who survive those trials, if they will repent and will call upon God in submission to His Will and become true followers of Jesus Christ, My Son, I will gather them and become their intercessor. But woe and more woe if that conversion does not occur. Go, My child, and announce it; I will assist you."

As you can see, this message is extremely fatalistic and apocalyptic. Its tone doesn't seem to coincide with the previous two messages. We hear Mary talk of a "great chastisement" and she actually sets a date, although still ambiguous. She also refers to another apparition site. She talks of corruption , by Satan, in the Church hierarchy and predicts the advent of nuclear weapons. Mary threatens the world with "the end of all ends" if the world refuses to change and convert. The subsequent description of this end reflects the details of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation and makes Mary seem harsh. There is a promise though, of a utopia afterwards.

This message contradicts the previous messages in that Mary promises a predetermined punishment, of which no repentance can halt. People can only alter the horrific end. The other messages, however, describe a war only if people refuse to convert, and she never mentions an endtime. In the previous messages, Mary did describe the consequences of not converting, which were famine, war, and persecution, but in this supposedly authentic third secret, Mary describes the consequences with great detail, in such lines as, "fire and smoke will fall from heaven."

The mystery surrounding Fatima has obviously produced much speculation and has been a mechanism for Marian sects to express their apocalypticism and fatalism. However, the mystery ended this year when Pope John Paul II released the third secret to the public:

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 Church's Interpretation

The Church categorizes Fatima as a private revelation, with secondary emphasis on future predictions, and primary emphasis on the present will of God and the right path for the future. The Vatican suggests that the reader look at the details as a whole to understand the message, and not try to decipher each separately. The prophecy does not lie in the details, but in the entire message, which serves as a guide to fulfill God's will. The symbolism describes the way to salvation from nuclear war and communism. It does not predict the future or the apocalypse. The message describes the struggles against atheism and communism in the 20th century. It also describes the martyrs and the people, including the Pope, who have suffered for their faith. The Vatican is also quick to debunk any hint of a fatalistic relationship between the murder of "the bishop dressed in white," in the message, and the Pope's 1981 assassination attempt. However, the Pope does accredit his escape to the Virgin, having the bullet set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Lucia did confirm, though, that this bishop in the message is the Pope, however, she agrees the vision does not predict the assassination attempt, but symbolizes his suffering through communism.

One surprise about the message had to do with the request to open the secret only after 1960. Lucia revealed that it was she, and not Mary, who felt this action was necessary. She says she had an inclination that the message could only be understood after 1960, dispelling any future-telling on the Virgin's behalf, another blow to apocalypticists.

Again, the main truths that the Vatican wants people to know is that the message is neither fatalistic or apocalyptic, but rather a relevant revelation to the present state of humanity and God's will, and also a guide to salvation.

Sectarian Interpretation

The revealing of the third secret by the Pope was a definite blow to many apocalyptic Marian groups. They immediately discount the published third secret and accuse the Church of a major conspiracy. After viewing several sectarian websites, one can find copious amounts of evidence for conspiracy, which Marianists have surmounted. This behavior is characteristic of many sectarian groups, whose basic beliefs are challenged by the mainstream denomination. They hasten to disprove it. They also question the Vatican's interpretation of it. Let us view some of the evidence and theories these groups and individuals have come up with:

*Many people question why the Church withheld the secret for 40 years, since it only concerned penance and martyrdom in the 20th century. They claim that the Church is withholding parts of the secret, or has even constructed a false secret.

*Some say there are actually two texts. One is the Vatican release, the other might have been destroyed by the Vatican. They have even constructed a chart with the differences:

Text contains words of Our Lady.
Third Secret Text #1Alluded to by Various Witnesses
Text transferred to Holy Office - April 16, 1957.
Written on a single sheet of paper.
About 25 lines of text.
Text was ready on January 9, 1944.
Pope John Paul II read the text in 1978.
Pope John Paul II consecrated the world on June 7, 1981 after reading the text of 1978 but before reading the 4-page text which he only read on July 18, 1981.
Written as a letter (addressed and signed).
Stored by the Pope's bedside.
Explains the vision.

Text does not contain any words of our Lady.
Third Secret Text #2 Released by Vatican(June 26, 2000)
Text transferred to Holy Office - April 4, 1957.
Written on 4 sheets of paper.
62 lines of text.
Text was ready on January 3, 1944.
Pope John Paul II read the text on July 18, 1981.
This text was not read by the Pope prior to his act of consecrating the world on June 7, 1981.
Not written as a letter (not addressed or signed), but as an entry in Sister Lucy's notebook.
Stored in the Holy Office building.
Describes the vision.

This group does not fault the Pope, but wants him to release the other text and allow Lucia to speak freely about her experience.

*Some point to the appearance of "etc." at the beginning of the third secret - "In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved. etc." This sentence warrants a suspicion among Marianists that the Vatican is withholding part of the secret.

*Some people point out that Mary asked the Vatican to only reveal the secret, not interpret it. When compared to the other two secrets, which were straight forward and void of interpretation, the third secret seems out of place. It is full of symbolism and room for interpretation, which, according to some, is more evidence for fabrication.

*The Vatican announced that the secret has only to do with the past, while many sects claim we are living in the time of the secret ("And we have other statements from Lucy saying that 'the punishments predicted by Our Lady in the Third Secret have already begun.'") or that it predicts the future. Marianists also claim that Mary wouldn'T waste her time with a message that was not prophetic and just reiterated what is said in the Bible, again accusing fabrication by the Vatican. They emphasize the urgency and relevance of the message to today, further exhibiting the urgency of apocalyptic groups. This urgency is evident in one Marianist's statement: "Cardinal Ottaviani, in 1955, told us there was a prophecy in the Secret. It is a prophecy in the strict sense of the word, predicting the future and predicting it in the name of God."

They hypothesize that the real secret must be apocalyptic because of several references made by people like Lucia, the Pope, and Cardinal Ratzinger. These statements include the ones cited above which relate the secret to Revelation.

*People also question the Pope's 1984 consecration of the world, including Russia. Many believe this did not actually occur because the Pope did not do it in the manner requested by Mary, and since abortion rates have increased, pornography is much more accessible, and the general state of the world has regressed. This belief therefore debunks the Vatican's claim that the events of the secret are of the past.

*Many people question Lucia's involvement in the third secret. The Vatican claims that it was Lucia who set the date of 1960 to reveal the secret. However, Marianists cite statements made by Lucia which show that Mary herself set this date. She was asked in 1946 why she requested the date of 1960, to which Lucia replied, "Beause the Blessed Virgin wishes it so." She also said, "It would become clearer at that time," which could be interpreted as a prediction. Marianists point to the development of nuclear weapons and the prevalence of abortions after 1960, claiming the Virgin predicted this.

*Some people question Lucia's ability to recognize her own handwriting after 83 years, suggesting the Vatican forged a copy of the third secret One website even provides evidence of forgery by comparing the handwriting in the Vatican's release to other copies of Lucia's handwriting.

*Some also suggest that a Lucia imposter exists, which was created by the Vatican to support their case.

As you can see, when apocalyptic groups are faced with a challenge to their speculations, they immediately find evidence and invent theories which explain, in their eyes, an untruth, such as the Vatican's third secret.


Marian apparitions seem to appear during times of political or social stress. At the time of Fatima, war, political upheaval, including the Russian Revolution, and economic crisis were all present in Europe. When the Fatima apparitions began, in May 1917, there was a bread riot going on, to protest World War I. Since the subsequent message spoke of war, starvation, and persecution, and also the use of the rosary to end the war, one cannot help but realize the possible relationship between the events. Also, the anticlericalism of the Portugese government hastened Fatima's adoption by the clerical cause, making it a popular apparition.

The Church used Fatima to further it's anti-communist agenda. It utilized Mary's urgency to convert Russia, making communism a punishment for faithlessness. Apparitions heightened in the post-war years, with a notable apocalyptic tone. Henri Holstein, a Jesuit, refers to it as the "current of Marian messianism."

Fatima's relevance to political events is also seen in Pope Pius XII's devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. He was severely anticommunist, which cause his devotion and political feelings to fuse. It is evident that the acceptance of the Assumption to Catholic dogma corresponds to the cold war. Pius also called on the Virgin to "annihilate the dark plans and the wicked work of the enemies of a united and Christian humanity." Mary was the face of anticommunism. This heightened in 1954, the "Marian Year," and when the Immaculate Conception was accepted.

It is evident that during these times of crisis, the Virgin offered hope to her followers by giving them a means to change things and also giving an ultimatum, such as apocalyptic events, to the continuity of the threat, mainly Russia. The perceived fatalistic and apocalyptic tone of her messages might offer stability and a sense of being an insider to her followers, especially during a tragic time. Perhaps, the Virgin helped people get through these trying times by giving people a sense of comfort and offering a solution. This would correspond to her appearances during times of trouble. David Blackbourn says it best - "In the desperate, emotionally charged atmosphere of post-war Germany, it is not surprising that Our Lady of Marpingen was looked to once again for consolation."