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Lucia of Fatima, Part III: The Infamous Third Secret

Editor’s note: The following, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, is Part III of a four-part series by Jonathan and Clara Fleischmann. Parts I and II were originally published by Missio Immaculatae Magazine and are edited and reprinted here with the authors’ permission. Read Part IPart II, and Part IV.

Visits from Jesus and Mary

On December 2, 1940, Lucia wrote to Pope Pius XII:

I come, Most Holy Father, to renew a request that has already been brought to you several times. The request, Most Holy Father, is from our Lord and our good Mother in Heaven.

In 1917, in the portion of the apparitions that we have designated “the secret”, the Blessed Virgin revealed the end of the war that was then afflicting Europe, and predicted another forthcoming, saying that to prevent it She would come and ask the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as well as the Communion of reparation on the first Saturday. …

Most Holy Father, this remained a secret until 1926 according to the express will of our Lady. Then, in a revelation She asked that the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months be propagated throughout the world, with its conditions of doing the following with the same purpose; going to confession, meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary and saying the Rosary with the aim of making reparation for the insults, sacrileges and indifferences committed against Her Immaculate Heart. …

I take this opportunity, Most Holy Father, to ask you to bless and extend this devotion to the whole world. In 1929, through another apparition, our Lady asked for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, promising its conversion through this means and the hindering of the propagation of its errors.

Sometime afterwards I told my confessor of the request of our Lady. He tried to fulfill it by making it known to Pius XI. In several intimate communications our Lord has not stopped insisting on this request, promising lately, to shorten the days of tribulation which He has determined to punish the nations for their crimes, through war, famine and several persecutions of the Holy Church and Your Holiness, if you will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with a special mention for Russia, and order that all the Bishops of the world do the same in union with Your Holiness. [1]

In this letter, Lucia refers to three visits from Jesus and Mary that occurred at Tuy in 1925, 1926, and 1929.

On December 10th, 1925, the most holy Virgin appeared to her, and by her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was a child. The most holy Virgin rested her hand on her shoulder, and as she did so, she showed her a heart encircled by thorns, which she was holding in her other hand. At the same time, the Child said:

“Have compassion on the Heart of your most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.” [2]

On February 15, 1926, the Infant Jesus appeared to Lucia again, saying:

“It is true, my daughter, that many souls begin the First Saturdays, but few finish them, and those who do complete them do so in order to receive the graces that are promised thereby. It would please me more if they did Five with fervor and with the intention of making reparation to the Heart of your heavenly Mother, than if they did Fifteen, in a tepid and indifferent manner[.]” [3] …

On June 13, 1929, Mary appeared again, saying:

“The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.” …

Later, in an intimate communication, Our Lord complained to me, saying:

“They did not wish to heed my request. Like the King of France, they will repent and do it, but it will be [too] late. Russia will have already spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars, and persecutions of the Church; the Holy Father will have much to suffer.” [4]

Controversy and Silence

On August 31, 1941, Lucia wrote to Fr. Gonçalves:

The bishop wrote me, telling me of a cross-examination by Dr. Galamba, and he ordered me to record everything else that I can remember relating to Jacinta for a new edition that they want to publish.

This order struck me in the center of my soul as a ray of light, telling me that the moment has arrived to reveal the first two parts of the secret and to add two chapters to the new edition: one on Hell and the other on the Immaculate Heart of Mary. … But will I also be able, at this time to keep quiet on this and speak only of things of less importance? I dread the questions that will be asked me about Hell. [5]

In her third memoir, Lucia relates the first and second parts of a three-part secret she received from Our Lady, with Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, on July 13, 1917:

The first part is the vision of Hell.

Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. …

The second part refers to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. [6]

The third part of the secret, which has come to be known (somewhat infamously) as the “Third Secret of Fatima,” was not recorded in any of Lucia’s memoirs. Rather, it was written down by Lucia and delivered to the bishop of Leiria-Fatima in a sealed envelope. On an outer envelope, which contained the sealed envelope, Lucia wrote in her own hand that the envelope could be opened only after 1960 by the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Cerejeira, or by the Bishop of Leiria, Monsignor da Silva [7].

On December 26, 1957, the postulator of the causes for the beatifications of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta interviewed Lucia in the Carmelite convent of Coimbra, to which Lucia had moved from the Dorothean convent of Tuy (with a brief stay at Sardão) in 1948. After this interview, which touched on a wide range of topics, including the message the three visionaries had received from Our Lady in 1917, the postulator, Fr. Augustin Fuentes, published a report, which was approved by the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, in which Fr. Fuentes reported the following words of Lucia (emphasis added):

Father, the Most Holy Virgin is very sad because no one has paid any attention to Her message, neither the good nor the bad. … [T]he punishment from Heaven is imminent[.] … I am not able to give any other details because it is still a secret. According to the will of the Most Holy Virgin, only the Holy Father and the bishop of Fatima are permitted to know the secret, but they have chosen to not know it in order not to be influenced. This is the third part of the message of Our Lady, which will remain a secret until 1960[.] …

Father, the devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin. And the devil knows what it is that most offends God and which in a short space of time will gain for him the greatest number of souls. Thus, the devil does everything to overcome souls consecrated to God, because in this way the devil will succeed in leaving the souls of the faithful abandoned by their leaders, thereby the more easily will he seize them. That which afflicts the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the fall of religious and priestly souls. The devil knows that religious and priests who fall away from their beautiful vocation drag numerous souls to hell[.] …

Father, the Most Holy Virgin did not tell me [explicitly] that we are in the last times of the world, but She made me understand this for three reasons. The first reason is because She told me that the devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Virgin. And a decisive battle is the final battle where one side will be victorious and the other side will suffer defeat. Also from now on we must choose sides. Either we are for God or we are for the devil. There is no other possibility. The second reason is because She said to my cousins as well as to myself that God is giving two last remedies to the world. These are the Holy Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These are the last two remedies, which signify that there will not be others. The third reason is because in the plans of Divine Providence God always, before He is about to punish the world, exhausts all other remedies.

Now, when He sees that the world pays no attention whatsoever, then, as we say in our imperfect manner of speaking, He offers us “with a certain fear” the last means of salvation, His Most Holy Mother. It is “with a certain fear” because if you despise and repulse this ultimate means we will not have any more forgiveness from Heaven because we will have committed a sin which the Gospel calls the sin against the Holy Spirit[.] … Let us remember that Jesus Christ is a very good Son and that He does not permit that we offend and despise His Most Holy Mother[.] …

The two means to save the world are prayer and sacrifice. Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the private life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, of the religious communities or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be resolved through the prayer of the Rosary[.] … Finally, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Most Holy Mother, consists in considering Her as the seat of mercy, of goodness and of pardon and as the sure door through which we are to enter Heaven. [8]

Beginning that same year (1957), the Holy Office – later the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – ordered that all of the writings of Lucia, including the secret in custody of the bishop of Leiria, be sent to Rome. On top of that, nearly two years later, on July 2, 1959, the diocese of Coimbra issued a shocking denial of the words Lucia allegedly said in the interview with Fr. Fuentes (after they had been translated into multiple languages and were already published around the world), claiming in the name of Sr. Lucia that no such words were ever spoken by her! Fr. Fuentes was subsequently removed from his position as postulator for the causes of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta.

One hardly needs to be an aficionado of so-called “Fatimist conspiracy theory” to agree that this turn of events was odd, to say the least [9]. This is particularly true if one considers that nothing in the interview reported by Fr. Fuentes cannot be found elsewhere in Sr. Lucia’s letters and memoirs, many of which were written later, and all of which are accepted as authentic. Stranger still is the fact that the publication of the interview was approved by the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Monsignor da Silva, the same who gave the Fatima apparitions the official approval of the Church on October 13, 1930. Moreover, the time lapse of two years between the time that the interview took place and the “official” reaction of the diocese of Coimbra suggests – even to the most sober mind – at least some form of intervention from a higher authority in the Church (for good or ill).

In a story that is well known, Pope John XXIII chose not to reveal the “Third Secret of Fatima,” which was in his possession, in 1960, and Pope Paul VI made the same decision in 1963. In the 1980s, before the Third Secret of Fatima had been officially revealed, Fr. Michel de la Sainte Trinité hypothesized (based on public and/or published statements of those who knew something of the content of the secret – including, of course, Lucia herself), that the Third Secret of Fatima was something like the following:

While ‘in Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved,’ in many nations, perhaps in almost the entire world, the faith will be lost. The pastors of the Church will fail gravely in the duties to their office. Because of their fault, consecrated souls and the faithful will allow themselves to be seduced in great numbers due to ruinous errors spread everywhere. This will be the time of the definitive combat between the Virgin and the demon. A wave of diabolical disorientation will sweep the world. Satan will infiltrate even the highest summits of the Church. Evil spirits will blind and harden the hearts of the pastors. Then God will leave them abandoned to themselves in punishment for their refusal to obey the requests of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This will be the great apostasy announced for the last times, the ‘false lamb,’ ‘false prophet,’ who betrays the Church for the benefit of the ‘beast’ according to the prophecy of the Apocalypse. Perhaps the Secret announces also one or another of the prophesied chastisements from Scripture pertaining to the ‘last times’? Perhaps it evokes the persecution the Holy Father will have to suffer when he ‘will return’ in order to ‘confirm his brethren’ and finally obey Our Lady’s requests. [10]

The opinion that the Secret of Fatima would include some reference to a “great apostasy” or some sort of a crisis in the Church was shared by many in the 1970s and 1980s, including the great Fatima historian and editor of Lucia’s memoirs, Fr. Antonio Maria Martins, S.J., who wrote in 1974 (emphasis added):

The reason that induced me to give this edition the title, The Secret of Fatima in the Memoirs and Letters of Sister Lucia, was the sad fact of observing that, in spite of repeated denials from competent religious authorities, books and pamphlets of apocalyptic conjectures on the Secret of Fatima continue to be printed, attributing words to Sister Lucia that she never wrote, nor even dreamed of. Two thirds of the Secret are found in this volume. The third part, the content of which has not yet been revealed, deals only with what is referred to as The Crisis of the Church. [11]

It is somewhat ironic that what Fr. Martins thought in 1974 was less sensational about the hypothetical content of the Third Secret of Fatima – namely, “The Crisis of the Church” – is precisely what is now considered the most sensational aspect of “Fatimist” claims regarding the hypothetical “full” content of the Secret, and what is most emphatically denied by several high-ranking Church officials [12]. Indeed, in terms of apocalyptic content, Fr. Michel’s “hypothetical version” of the Third Secret of Fatima is in substance the same as the official version [13], released in 2000, with which most people are now familiar, except for the fact that the “official version” includes only a description of the “symbolic vision,” containing no words of explanation or interpretation from either Lucia or the Blessed Virgin Mary. Clearly, this symbolic vision is an authentic part of the Third Secret, though “Fatimists” would argue that it may not be all of it. That this vision is part of the secret was already confirmed by Lucia in her third memoir – which, as we learned above, was written in 1941 – in which she relates the following vision of St. Jacinta:

Another time we went to the Lapa do Cabeço. Once there, we prostrated ourselves on the ground and said the angel’s prayers. Later Jacinta got up and called me, “Don’t you see many highways, so many roads and fields full of dead people trickling blood? So many people weeping with hunger, for they have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father praying in a church before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And many people praying with him?”

A few days later she asked, “Can I say that I saw the Holy Father and all those people?

“No. Don’t you see that this is part of the secret? That way it will be discovered immediately.”

“All right. I won’t say anything then.” [14]

Despite accusations leveled by critics of the so-called “Fatimist network of conspiracy theorists” [15], it is hard to understand what is particularly more sensational about Fr. Michel’s version of the Third Secret as compared to the “official” version released in 2000, which, incidentally, no pope or cardinal has ever claimed was everything Lucia personally claimed that Our Lady revealed to Francisco, Jacinta, and herself, but rather only what the Church officially stipulated that Our Lady revealed to the children [16]. Indeed, the only point of substantial difference between the two “versions” of the Third Secret of Fatima is the part about Satan “infiltrating even the highest summits of the Church,” which is hardly sensational, and which in any case has been sadly confirmed throughout the history of the Church as a sober fact.

Regardless of whether or not any further elaborations on the “symbolic vision” of the Third Secret, attributable either to the Blessed Virgin Mary or to Lucia’s private interpretation, were ever in the possession of Church authorities at any level of the Magisterium, the undeniable fact remains that the “hypothetical” version of the Third Secret of Fatima contains no more and no less than the message Our Lady repeated to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa, in Akita, Japan, which is fully approved by the Church and therefore has a canonical status “equal” to that of Fatima, on October 13, 1973, exactly 56 years after the last message of Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun.

It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one has never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the pope, the bishops and priests.

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres … churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them. [17]

The upshot of this is, of course, that while Lucia had to observe complete silence after 1960 regarding the Third Secret of Fatima, in obedience to the authority of the Church’s Magisterium, Our Lady did not.


[1] Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia (Second English Edition), ed. by Fr. Robert J. Fox and Fr. Antonio Maria Martins, S.J., Fatima Family Apostolate, Park Press, Inc., Waite Park, MN, 2002, pp. 385-386.

[2] Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Vol. I, ed. by Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD., Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 9th edition, 1995, p. 231.

[3] Ibid., pp. 232-233.

[4] Ibid., pp. 234-235.

[5] Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia (Second English Edition), p. 402.

[6] Third Memoir, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Vol. I, pp. 104-108.

[7] Cf., Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s Introduction to the Vatican’s official dossier on the Fatima secret, The Message of Fatima, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2000.

[8] Quoted by Antonio Socci, The Fourth Secret of Fatima, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam, NH, 2006, pp. 97-101.

[9] Cf., ibid, in which Antonio Socci – whose integrity as a journalist has been acknowledged by Pope Francis himself – gives an even-handed and thoroughly professional journalistic exposition of the matter.

[10] Ibid., p. 152, footnote 259.

[11] Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia (Second English Edition), pp. 139-140.

[12] C.f., Antonio Socci, The Fourth Secret of Fatima.

[13] The Message of Fatima, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2000.

[14] Third Memoir, Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia (Second English Edition), p. 407.

[15] Joanna Bogle, “The boring Third Secret of Fatima”, The Catholic World Report, June 1, 2016.

[16] A Vatican communiqué issued February 8, 1960 gave the following reason for not publishing the Third Secret of Fatima that year (1960) as Lucia had requested: “Although the Church recognizes the Fatima apparitions, she does not desire to take the responsibility of guaranteeing the veracity of the words the three shepherd children said that the Virgin Mary had addressed to them.” Since this is true of all Church-recognized private revelations, however, from those of St. Birgitta of Sweden in the 14th century to those of St. Faustina Kowalska in the 20th century, the reason why this should have precluded the publication of the secret that year remains unclear.

[17] Akita: The Tears and Message of Mary, ed. by Teiji Yasuda, O.S.V., transl. by John M. Haffert, 101 Foundation, Asbury, NJ, 1989, pp. 77-78.

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