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100th Anniversary of the Apparitions of Fatima

It is 1917 and Europe has been engulfed by internecine war for three years. In Portugal, the Church suffers from persecution. In Saint Petersburg, the Bolshevik Revolution breaks out.

Fatima is a small town in central Portugal. Three children had visions of the Mother of God there between 13 May and 13 October 1917. They were the Marto siblings, Jacinta and Francisco, and Lucia dos Santos. In 1921, a local bishop gave permission to hold a mass for pilgrims, and in 1930 the Holy See approved the cult of Our Lady of Fatima. In 1967, Pope Paul VI confirmed the credibility of the apparitions in the Signum magnum exhortation. In 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta and revealed the so-called third Fatima secret. On 13 May 2017, on the centenary of the apparitions, Pope Francis canonised the siblings.

The „secret” associated with the apparitions has three parts. The first two secrets contain a vision of hell, an appeal for the worship of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a prefigurement of the Second World War; they presage the enormous damage that Russia would inflict on humanity by abandoning faith and setting up communist totalitarianism. In the third part of the „secret”, written down on 3 January 1944, the pope walks alone in a half-ruined city, climbs a mountain top and eventually dies a martyr’s death at the foot of a cross. The mountain and the city – as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains – symbolise the place where human history unfolds. History is man’s arduous climb to the top. At the same time, it is a place of creation and destruction, a place of community and progress, but also a place of extreme dangers and threats. Nevertheless, man is not a passive object of history. The future is not predetermined – it is entrusted to human freedom. The cross on the mountain top is a waypoint and the destination of history. Through the cross, destruction has been transformed into salvation. The vision is therefore reassuring. During the apparitions, the Mother of God expresses her wish for people to take Communion on the first Saturday of the month in order to atone for their past sins.

John Paul II was convinced that the apparitions of Fatima were one of the most important omens communicated to people in the 20th century. The bullet that wounded him during the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981 was placed in the crown of Our Lady of Fatima; moreover, the pope himself attributed his miraculous survival to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima.

Rev. Prof. Piotr Mazurkiewicz, PhD
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw