Sister Lúcia’s Interpretation of the Third Secret
Almost 40 years later, in a May 1982 letter to Pope John Paul II, Sister Lúcia gave an interpretation of the third secret. She wrote: “The third part of the secret refers to Our Lady’s words: ‘If not, [Russia] 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.’ The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the message, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the message itself asks of us: ‘If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world.’”
At long last the third secret of Fátima was revealed. We learn from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “The decision of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to make public the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fátima brings to an end a period of history marked by tragic human lust for power and evil, yet pervaded by the merciful love of God and the watchful care of the Mother of Jesus and of the Church. The action of God, the Lord of history, and the co-responsibility of man in the drama of his creative freedom, are the two pillars upon which human history is built. Our Lady, who appeared at Fátima, recalls these forgotten values. She reminds us that man’s future is in God, and we are active and responsible partners in creating that future.”
Pope John Paul II and the Third Secret
The envelope containing the third secret was not to be opened before 1960. Sister Lúcia had asked her bishop of Leiria to read it but he refused. Instead, it was given to him for safekeeping, and later, to ensure better protection, it was placed in the Secret Archives of the Holy Office on April 4, 1957.
On August 17, 1959, Father Pierre Paul Philippe, OP, the commissary of the Holy Office, with the agreement of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, brought the envelope that contained the third secret of Fátima to Pope John XXIII. According to the Message of Fátima, Pope John XXIII hesitated and said, “We shall wait. I shall pray. I shall let you know what I decide.”
Pope John XXIII decided not to reveal the secret and returned the envelope to the Holy Office. Almost six years later, on March 27, 1965, Pope Paul VI read the contents and decided not to publish it. The envelope was then returned to the Archives of the Holy Office.
Not long after he was seriously wounded in a burst of gunfire in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II requested the envelope containing the third part of the secret. The pontiff had written a message to be read to pilgrims in Fátima to commemorate the anniversary of the apparitions. Astonishingly, this message was being read aloud on May 13, 1981, at the moment Mehmet Ali Agca fired shots at the pope, who was standing in an open car moving slowly into St. Peter’s Square, which was filled with more than 10,000 people.
Pope John Paul II was shot four times and suffered severe blood loss. He was near death when he arrived at Gemelli Hospital. His very first thoughts were on Fátima when he regained consciousness. He began to read Sister Lúcia’s memoirs and her letters during his months of recuperation at the hospital. The recovery was slow going, but the pontiff knew what he needed to read next. On July 18, Pope John Paul II asked for the envelope containing the third secret of Fátima.
Cardinal Franjo Seper, prefect of the Congregation, gave two envelopes to Archbishop Eduardo Martínez Somalo, substitute of the secretariat of state, to be delivered to the pontiff. One was a white envelope that contained Sister Lúcia’s original writing in Portuguese. The other envelope was orange and contained the Italian translation of the secret. The two envelopes were returned to the Archives of the Holy Office on August 11, 1981, after a thorough review by Pope John Paul II.
The pope was very moved upon reading the contents of the envelope as the reality of the secret sunk deeper into his heart. He immediately thought of consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
He believed that on May 13, 1981, which was the 64th anniversary of the first apparition in Fátima, the Blessed Mother guided the bullets that shot him to protect him from death. The third secret of Fátima was so much about him, the “bishop dressed in white.” Pope John Paul II recognized himself as the pope (or bishop) who, in the third part of the secret, was killed. However, Pope John Paul II was not killed, but was miraculously saved by the Blessed Mother.
Some would later say that Pope John Paul II couldn’t possibly be the “bishop in white” in the vision because he did not die. To that, Pope John Paul II answered that he should have died, but the Blessed Mother brought him back from the brink of death. He even went so far as to say that the Blessed Mother gave him back his life. There was no question in his mind.