Many Fatima devotees were, I think it’s fair to say, disappointed when the centenaries of each of the original apparitions in 1917 came and went with no discernible event taking place to mark the occasion. For my part, I have always believed that God prefers to be less predictable than this, though there is certainly precedent for divinely-ordered things happening on important dates and anniversaries.
Nevertheless, despite a relatively quiet year from the perspective of obvious supernatural occurrences, the Fatima message continues to play out before us in ways that sometimes feel more relevant than they ever have.
Islam and Rome
For example, just this past week, a pro-ISIS group called the “Wafa’ Media Foundation” distributed a propaganda image over Telegram, a heavily-encrypted, cloud-based messaging service that has been called the “app of choice for terrorists.” The image depicts a masked jihadi in a desolated city street with ISIS fighters sitting on the back of a truck behind him. In his right hand, he holds a knife, and beneath his feet is a beheaded Pope Francis, wearing the orange jumpsuit we have seen on many ISIS prisoners. Beside the decapitated head of the pope is a label: “Jorge Mario Bergoglio.”
Earlier in the month, Wafa’ produced another poster showing a weapons-laden vehicle heading towards the Vatican, with the message, “Christmas Blood…So Wait…” A news report from earlier this month details this and some additional recent threats:
A propaganda video from this past summer shows jihadi fighters destroying statues and churches, and tearing up images of both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. One masked fighter looks into the camera and says, “Remember this…we will be in Rome!”
This of course isn’t the first time we’ve heard such warnings. We’ve reported on them here before. As Islamic scholar Andrew Bieszad wrote in 2014 amidst rumors that there was an ISIS assassination threat against the pope, Francis’ pro-Islamic stance has done nothing to shield him from their desire to shed his blood. In fact:
The fact is that from an Islamic viewpoint, Pope Francis’ statements about the Muslim faith actually further Islamic beliefs. However, he is not only not of their faith but is the leader of the largest group of Christians in the world. In the Muslim mind, this sets up a paradox — an infidel of the highest order is supporting their religious ideas, yet he is manifestly not a Muslim. The question about Pope Francis for Muslims becomes whether is he going to fully accept Islam (since he is already promoting it) or persist in his infidelity, and thus merit the punishment for infidels. What Pope Francis may see as an act of outreach and solidarity to Muslims is actually interpreted by Islamic theology as a form of partial consent to the Islamic faith, and thus merits an aggressive push to encourage him to complete the process of his conversion to Islam.
How aggressive? There’s a reason why Islam is known as a religion which “converts by the sword.”
Chapter 30 of the Quran is dedicated to the fall of “Rome.” While many of the Quranic commentators explain this to be the Islamic conquest of Constantinople, it is also understood as referring to the “final” Rome – namely, Rome, Italy. This is because for many Muslims, Rome — as the heart of the Catholic Church and the home of the Roman Pontiff — is considered the “center” of the Christian world. If it is conquered, Christianity will (Muslims believe) quickly be globally eclipsed by Islam. Given the large numbers of Muslims living in Italy and Rome, it is a small miracle that neither the Pope nor the Vatican has been attacked before now.
But there’s more: this is not just my reading of the Quran being applied to the present context. Even before the more recent threats on the life of Pope Francis, the Islamic State had specifically called for the conquest of Christian Rome. If they can find a way, there is no reason to believe they will not make such an attempt.
In light of this, consider again these words of the Third Secret of Fatima as revealed by the Vatican…
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…
In another story of relevance this week, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has warned — though obliquely — that certain apocalyptic biblical signs are now in evidence:
“All people who love the Motherland must be together because we are entering a critical period in the course of human civilization. This can already be seen with the naked eye. You have to be blind not to notice the approaching awe-inspiring moments in history that the apostle and evangelist John was talking about in the Book of Revelation,” the patriarch was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Patriarch Kirill added, however, that the exact time of the end times depends on everyone’s actions. He called on people to understand their responsibility regarding Russia and the whole of mankind, and to stop “the movement towards the end of history’s abyss.”
He emphasized that many representatives of the modern Russian intelligentsia are repeating the mistakes made by their predecessors, who led the country into the ruinous revolutionary events of the early 20th century.
As a religious leader, Kirill is a controversial figure, seen by many as an unethical tool of the Russian state. Nevertheless, I can’t help hearing in his warning about Russian leaders repeating the “mistakes made by their predecessors” an echo of Our Lady in the second Fatima secret: “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation 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 against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”
Whatever Kirill’s motives, the question of Russia’s errors — and her neglected consecration — remain very much at issue.
In an interview with me in January, 2017, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who grew up in the Soviet Union, elaborated on his earlier comments that we must “pray that the pope may soon consecrate explicitly Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”:
We have to take it at serious when God sends us His Immaculate Mother to warn us. If we hear the admonitions of Our Heavenly Mother, Her Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ will make miracles, as He did at the wedding in Cana. A solemn act of consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on behalf of the Pope in moral union with all bishops will undoubtedly cause the pouring out of abundant graces for the Church and for all mankind, as it foretold Our Lady in Fatima. It is tragic that prophetic appeals are heard oftentimes too late. Let us pray and ask the Holy Father to do what Our Lady asked in Fatima.
Cardinal Burke, too, repeated last month a message he had presented earlier this year, namely, that the consecration of Russia “was not carried out in the manner requested by Our Lady”. Burke insisted: “Recognizing the necessity of a total conversion from atheistic materialism and communism to Christ, the call of Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart in accord with Her explicit instruction remains urgent.”
So where do Russia, Islam, and Fatima intersect? In our podcast on November 14, 2015, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Andrew Bieszad offered this theory:
If there’s any country who has the ability to actually stop Islam…and actually drive it out — both in terms of military, culturally, spiritually speaking — the one who is closest to it is actually Russia. … I’ve felt this way for many years. Now, some people say in Fatima it’s been consecrated, some people say it has not. I am of the camp that I think it’s pretty clear it has not been. And if you ask me, this is my opinion … consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That could very well bring about the expulsion of Islam from Europe. Because frankly, I don’t see how temporal means are going to help. … I would go so bold as to say it’s Fatima or death.
Since that interview, we’ve seen Russia take the lead in the fight against ISIS, with some going so far as to declare that victory is within reach by year’s end. The diplomatic situation between the United States (and her allies) and Russia is, of course, complicated, and beyond the scope of this essay to explore. Suffice to say, however, that at least one part of Bieszad’s prediction appears to have been somewhat accurate.
The most critical part, however, remains unfulfilled.
As the Fatima centenary year draws to a close, we should not allow ourselves to neglect our prayers for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the consecration of Russia. The future of the West as we know it could very well hinge upon it in ways we’ve not yet even imagined.