February 2009By Arthur C. Sippo
Arthur C. Sippo is a physician and specialist in aerospace medicine who has written and lectured as a Catholic apologist for over 30 years. He writes from southern Illinois.
The Last Secret of Fatima. By Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone. Foreword by Pope Benedict XVI. Doubleday. 192 pages. $21.95.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, Catholics lived in expectation of an apocalyptic end to the 20th century. Marian apparitions had become common in the 100 years previously, most of which warned of an imminent chastisement for sin, the coming of the end of the world, and the birth of the Antichrist. The one event that was most anticipated was the opening of an envelope addressed to the Pope to be unsealed in 1960 revealing the "third secret" that had been revealed to the three children of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. It was speculated that in this letter Mary would give the Holy Father last-minute instructions for the coming of World War III. There was plenty of hype surrounding this last "secret" given at Cova de Ira. Even people who normally did not put much stock in end-times speculation looked upon this final private revelation with a mixture of dread and expectation.
Well, 1960 came and went. Pope John XXIII read the secret in private and then shared the message with a handful of high-ranking cardinals, including Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani. Pope John XXIII said that the secret did not pertain to the reign of his pontificate, and he locked it away. After that, subsequent popes and a select group of Vatican insiders have been privy to the secret but enjoined not to reveal it.
Then on October 13, 1981, exactly 64 years after the last appearance of Our Lady at the Cova and the famed Miracle of the Sun, Pope John Paul II was shot by a Turkish thug hired by the Bulgarian secret service at the request of the Russian KGB. Yuri Andropov was the head of the Russian spy agency and would have been directly responsible for this. Pope John Paul II had just made it clear that if the Russians directly interfered in the process of economic liberalization in his native Poland, he would return to his country to be with his fellow Poles in their fight for freedom. That threat was taken very seriously by the Russians. Their economy constantly teetered on the verge of collapse, and the sentiment of the people in the Eastern European bloc was not only anti-Russian but anti-communist. Such a move by the Pope could have brought down the entire Soviet empire. He could not be allowed to do this, so it became expedient that one man should die so that the Soviet Union would not perish.
But John Paul told us that the hand of Mary deflected the bullet and spared his life. The significance of the date on which he was shot did not escape him. While in the hospital, he called for the Fatima secret to be brought to him. He had already read it, but in light of what had happened, the meaning of the secret was finally revealed. John Paul suffered terribly, not only from his bullet wounds but from cytomegalovirus, which he contracted from his many post-operative blood transfusions. It was this virus that likely caused the Parkinsonism that eventually led to the Holy Father's death.
By the end of that decade, the Soviet Union would implode from within. Atheistic communism, which had dominated more than one-half of the world's population, ceased to be a serious ideological threat to world peace. World War III did not happen. The Eastern bloc threw off both the Russian and communist yoke. Without the firing of a single shot, communism was relegated to the ash heap of history.
Pope John Paul realized that the third secret applied to his pontificate and his own personal tribulation. But he elected not to capitalize on this. He waited instead until the end of his pontificate to reveal what Mary had told to three young children in October 1917, just as the Russian Revolution was getting underway: "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."
From that time forward in his pontificate, John Paul II collected the documentation of all the Catholic martyrs of the last century of the second Christian millennium. The 20th century proved to be the bloodiest of all centuries for Christians. John Paul realized as his own body weakened from the gunshot wound inflicted on him by the militant agents of atheistic communism that his pontificate would at its close fulfill Mary's prophecy. His own death would be just one more martyrdom from a century of martyrdoms.
Many, both in and out of the Catholic Church, did not believe that what the Vatican revealed as the last secret of Fatima was the real thing. Many presented wild conspiracy theories and accused John Paul II of a massive cover up.
The Last Secret of Fatima, written by Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, gives a detailed exposition of the Fatima story and of the process by which Pope John Paul II decided to release the secret. It contains inside information concerning the Pope's reasoning and the interaction between the Vatican and the last living Fatima seer, Lucia, when the secret was revealed. Cardinal Bertone's book could be considered the definitive account of the last secret of Fatima. Many of the participants in this affair are now dead, and most of the remaining ones will be soon. For anyone who still harbors doubts about the authenticity of the third Fatima secret as revealed by the Vatican, this book is a must read. For those who have longed to know the contents of the secret, this book presents the whole story and includes not only a text of all three Fatima secrets but Cardinal Ratzinger's theological commentary on them.
Fatima was a mere private revelation, but it told the story of the 20th century with great theological precision. The apparitions coincided with the start of the communist menace and eventually predicted the event that hastened its downfall. The renewed vigor in John Paul II's pontificate after the assassination attempt and the arrogant impotence of the Russians against the Catholic Church became the lever and fulcrum by which the Soviet empire would be toppled. It came out exactly as Our Lady had said, "In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace."