Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Fatima
1. Where is Fatima?
Fatima is a village in the center of Portugal about 70 miles north of Lisbon. In the backwaters of Europe and Portugal, Fatima in 1917 would have been the last place anyone would have chosen as the location to pronounce prophecies involving the great world powers of not only that time, but of our very day.
2. Why is Fatima so well known?
Fatima is noted for its highly prophetic nature combined with the extraordinary supernatural signs observed simultaneously by many thousands of observers.
3. Who were the Fatima visionaries?
As with LaSalette and Lourdes, the visionaries at Fatima were humble peasant children: eight-year old Lucia Santos and her two cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. At the time, the Portuguese government was secular and antagonistic towards religion. Far from accepting the children's reported apparitions, the government treated the children harshly, questioned them extensively, and even placed them in prison with the threat of boiling them in oil unless they confessed to having made up their story. In spite of this, the children never wavered.
The three Fatima visionaries: Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta (left to right).
Photo credit: Mother of God Crusade
4. What were the Fatima visions?
Fatima involved a series of six major apparitions of the Virgin Mary together with several other apparitions of angels and other personages, culminating in the extraordinary "miracle of the sun."
5. What were the Fatima Prophecies?
Briefly, the following -- all of which are totally accurate:
- "The war is going to end," -- meaning World War I, which happened with the signing of the armistice on 11 November, 1918
- A "night illuminated by an unknown light," which came to pass on January 25, 1938 with an extraordinary Aurora Borealis seen throughout the Western world. This was to be the sign of coming war, hunger, and persecution .
- A "worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XI" -- which was World War II.
- Russia will "spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars," -- which was the rise of communism.
- "The good will be martyred" -- which happened with the Nazi slaughter of 6 million innocent Jews and the communist slaughter of millions of believers.
- The Holy Father will have much to suffer," -- which happened with the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on the anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
- "Various nations will be annihilated," -- which occured with the absorption of various nations into the Soviet empire.
- "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me," -- which happened on 25 March 1984.
- "Russia ... will be converted, and some time of peace will be given to the world," which began with the fall of communism and the freeing of the slave nations.
- " In Portugal the dogma of the faith will be kept always," which has been kept by the Portuguese people, even when their government was anti-clerical.
6. What are the three secrets of Fatima?
- The first "secret" of Fatima is the vision of hell given to the children, together with the prophesies of World War II, the rise of communism, and the eventual triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- The second "secret" of Fatima is the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- The third "secret" of Fatima was written down, placed in a sealed envelope, and given to the Bishop of Leiria, Portugal, to be opened and read not before 1960 when it was to "become clearer." Rather than assume the responsibility of knowing the "secrets of heaven," the Bishop prudently decided to send it to the Vatican, where it has been reportedly read by at least two popes -- John XXIII and John Paul II -- but never been officially revealed.
7. Why was the third secret not to be revealed until after 1960, and why has it never been revealed?
The short answer is that nobody knows. However, Pope John Paul II, when asked about the secret in 1980 was reported to have said that his predecessors had delayed its publication because of the secret's gravity and to not encourage the spread of communism. He went on to say that many only wanted to know out of curiosity and sensationalism, then held up a rosary and said "There is the remedy against evil. Pray! Pray! and nothing else. Entrust all the rest to God."
8. What has been speculated about the third secret?
Since the first two secrets involved spiritual salvation, historical events, and chastisements, speculaton is that the third secret is similar in nature. Some speculate that the third secret of Fatima addresses dangers to the Church from within. Others speculate that the third secret deals with the dangers of nuclear war. Interestingly, 1960 marked the peak of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, at nearly 21,000 megatons (as reported by the Washington Post), although the Soviet stockpile continued to grow until the mid-1980s. 1960 also was also the year that Kruschev bragged about a 100 megaton nuclear weapon in the Soviet arsenal. Just two years later, in 1962, the world came perilously close to a nuclear holocaust over the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963 the nuclear test ban treaty was signed, followed in 1970 by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, thus beginning the slow process of controlling the irrationality of nuclear war. So in retrospect it can be argued that the years beginning in 1960 were the most dangerous to the survival of mankind from nuclear war. Nonetheless, in spite of these coincidences, speculation about the third secret of Fatima is only that -- speculation -- and should not detract from Fatima's overarching message, which is spiritual.
9. Did the Pope make the consecration of Russia asked for at Fatima?
Although there is some controversy over this, it is generally accepted that Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 25 March 1984. One year later, Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Union and began the program of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). Shortly thereafter communism began a rapid disintegration, leading to the freedom of the captive East European nations, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the end of communist rule in Russia. Nonetheless, some argue that the consecration was not properly done, and cite the continued materialism and atheism in Russia as a case in point.
10. What exists at Fatima today?
At Fatima today there exists a large shrine which has drawn millions of pilgrims to prayer and devotion.
The shrine at Fatima.
Photo courtesy of Helder Bernardo
11. What has happened to the Fatima visionaries?
Francisco and Jacinta were victims of the flu pandemic of 1918 and died in 1919 and 1920 respectively. Lucia is the sole surviving visionary, and at 88 years of age she remains a cloistered nun at a Carmelite convent in Portugal.
Sister Lucia at one of her rare public appearances, at Fatima with Pope John Paul II in May 1991 on the tenth anniversary of the Papal assassination attempt.
Photo credit: Sanctuary of Fatima
12. Is Fatima "approved" by the Catholic Church?
Yes, Fatima has been approved as authentic by the Vatican.
13. Do Roman Catholics have to believe in Fatima?
No, Roman Catholics do not have to believe in any private revelation such as Fatima. "Approval" of Fatima by the Vatican simply menas that it is judged to be consistent with Scripture and tradition and free of error, and devotion to Fatima can be beneficial to the individual's faith. But belief in Fatima is left to the conscience of each individual Catholic.