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What Is the Third Secret of Fatima?

When Our Lady appeared to three children in Fatima, she entrusted to them a secret in three parts. One of the children wrote down the third part, the contents of which were not released to the public until 2000. The meaning of these contents is open to interpretation, but sometimes folks can get a bit…carried away. So what’s the most reasonable interpretation? Jimmy Akin explains on Catholic Answers Live.


Caller: How do I answer people that are posting the third secret of Fatima that is so full of doomsday prophecy? Like, there’ll be darkness for X number of days, and all kinds of calamities are gonna befall the earth. Can you explain it in such a way that is the official Church position on the third secret?

Jimmy Akin: We know what the text of the third secret is, because it’s been released. It was released by John Paul II towards the end of his reign, and it had previously been in the custody of Joseph Ratzinger (who then became Pope Benedict XVI), and so unless you’re gonna say that John Paul II and Benedict XVI are liars—and one of them already is a Saint—so unless you’re gonna say that they’re liars, you’re gonna have to say, “Well, we know what the text is.” And the text was a vision of a—it involved a number of elements, but it was a vision of a bishop in white leading a group of people through a war-torn city, who were then martyred by soldiers firing at them, and angels blessing their souls as they go up to heaven, as an angel wields a flaming sword and threatens the earth with it and urges people to repent.

Now, that’s what it said. What does it mean? Well, this is something that there actually can be different views about. There’s not an official teaching of “It must mean this.” In fact, you don’t have to accept it at all, and you certainly don’t have to accept a single interpretation of it—but if you want to be reasonable about it, it needs to be read in the context of other things that Sr. Lucia said and the interpretation of it that was given by Sr. Lucia, because she’s the visionary. If anybody’s gonna know what this means, you’d think it would be her.

And she related it to the Cold War. She related it to Russia and how it was spreading Communism throughout the world and that was causing wars and martyrdoms, and that would even lead to the assassination attempt on John Paul II—and could threaten nuclear war. In fact, Sr. Lucia, in a set of interviews, said that there would have been a nuclear war in the 1980s, but John Paul II did a special act of spiritual consecration that prevented that. And so that’s how the seer herself interpreted this, and frankly I don’t see any good reasons to deviate from that. It seems like a natural understanding of the symbolism that’s involved here, it’s endorsed by her and by John Paul II, who was one of the key figures in this prophecy, and so I think that’s the most reasonable interpretation.

In terms of other things, like three days of darkness and illuminations of consciences, those are also ideas that come from some of these mystical reports, but they’re not from Fatima. That’s not what Fatima’s talking about.

If you’d like to learn more about this, episode 84 of “Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World” is devoted to evaluating private revelations. I’ve also done three episodes on Fatima and on the third secret of Fatima, so if you check out “Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World: Fatima,” you’ll find three episodes on it, one of which gives general background, and two of which go into the third secret. Also, if you want to know—you didn’t mention this one specifically, but based on what you were describing I think you may have encountered discussions of the supposed “illumination of conscience”—I also have an episode on that, so Google “Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World illumination of conscience” and you’ll get that. And in the future I will have one on the idea of three days of darkness, but I haven’t produced that one just yet.

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