The week that Pope Francis ended at the shrine at Fatima to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin began with the ad limina visit of the Quebec bishops. As if the mere presence of these Canadian bishops sought to underscore that, in the end, the prophecy of Fatima has not yet been fulfilled.
Quebec is the Canadian province that switched from being strongly Catholic to being completely overtaken by secularizing trends. Bishops and priests tried to counter this trend, without in the end stopping it. The trend was named “la révolution tranquille,” the quiet revolution. To some extent, it represents a sort of extension of what happened in Europe, beginning with the French Revolution and the so-called “liberal movements” that followed.
Not by chance, one of the most profound analyses of the current crisis of faith was provided by Bishop Thomas Dowd, Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal. He insisted: “I am convinced that the crisis of faith is not actually a crisis of faith, but a crisis of hope. Essentially, when people live a crisis of faith, they ask: what should I believe? When they live a crisis of hope, they ask: why should I believe? This latter is a completely different questions. Asking why also has a depressive effect on religious practice.”
For this reason – he continued – there are many who “describe themselves as Christians, but do not practice. The level of religious practice is very low, the level of self-identification with Catholicism is very high. True, when religious practice is lacking, faith tends to disappear. However, we are called to face the issue of the crisis of hope.”
Because – he concluded – “it is hope that works as a bridge between faith and charity. When hope is lacking, faith and charity begin to separate, so that people, for example, might think that charity is enough, and that they can live well even without God, without the Church, without faith…”
Are we really living in a world that killed hope? Can all the attacks against the Church really be explained as a way to prevent hope?
This brings us to Fatima. Hope was in agony in Portugal when the Virgin appeared. The Catholic Church was the first target of the 1910 Portuguese Revolution that removed the reigning monarchy and proclaimed the republic. The highest ranks of the republic were composed of Freemasons.
Churches were ransacked, convents were attacked, religious brothers and sisters were persecuted. Above all, anti-clerical laws were issued: convents, monasteries and religious orders were suppressed; religious brothers were expelled and their goods confiscated, and Jesuits were even obliged to surrender their Portuguese citizenship.
One after another, new pieces of legislation were passed: the bill on divorce, the bill on cremation, the bill for the secularization of cemeteries, the prohibition against profession of religious vows, the abolition of religious education in schools, the prohibition against clerical attire in public, and even a restriction on the use of church bells and the suppression of the public celebration of religious feasts. The government also took over the right to appoint professors in seminaries, and issued a law on Church – State separation. Alfonso Costa, who promoted all of these laws, announced that the final goal was to “completely abolish” Catholicism from Portugal “within two generations.”
It did not happen, because of popular devotion, and because Pope St. Pius X strongly opposed it. It did not happen because of what happened at Fatima.
In fact, the Portuguese government’s procedure was not unprecedented. Similar laws were approved in Italy. The political unification of the Kingdom of Italy, brought about by the House of Savoy, began with a liberal constitution granted by King Charles Albert. The constitution recognized Catholicism as the state religion, but it suppressed religious orders and confiscated the goods of the Church.
The same happened in France when the French Revolution set as its goal to sweep away Catholic tradition from the country that was considered the favorite and first-born daughter of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI provided a vivid description of what happened in France after the Revolution in a homily he preached in Carpineto Romano, where he went to pay homage to Pope Leo XIII, who was born there.
Looking back to the times of Pope Leo, Pope Benedict recounted, “Europe was then weathering the great Napoleonic storm that followed the French Revolution. The Church and many expressions of Christian culture were radically disputed (think only of examples such as calculating the years no longer from Christ’s birth but from the beginning of the new revolutionary era, or of removing the names of saints from the calendar, from streets, from villages…).”
But – he added – “rural populations were not of course favorable to these overwhelming changes and remained firm in their religious traditions. Daily life was hard and difficult: the conditions of health and of nourishment left much to be desired. In the meantime industry was developing and with it the workers’ movement, more and more politically organized.”
So, “the Magisterium of the Church, at its highest level, was driven and aided by local thought and experiences to compile an overall interpretation in view of the new society and of its common good. Thus when Leo XIII was elected Pope in 1878 he felt called to bring this interpretation to completion in the light of his extensive knowledge of international affairs, but also of many projects put into practice ‘on the spot’ by Christian communities and men and women of the Church.”
Pope Benedict’s homily was delivered on September 5, 2010. And 2010 was the “annus horribilis” for the Catholic Church. It was the Year of Priests, but also the year when attacks against the Church over the pedophilia scandal were constantly renewed. In that same year, Benedict went to Fatima on pilgrimage. On his way to Portugal, speaking with the journalist in a presser, he insisted that Fatima’s prophecy had not been fulfilled. Or, to put it more clearly, that Fatima’s prophecy is always alive.
He explained that “as for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from sin existing within the Church.”
Benedict added that “this too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice. In a word, we need to relearn precisely this essential: conversion, prayer, penance and the theological virtues. This is our response, we are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, yet that the forces of good are also ever present and that, in the end, the Lord is more powerful than evil and Our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.”
Back in 2000, it was the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – who presented on June 26, 2000, the theological interpretation of the 3rd part of the secret of Fatima. He started the press conference saying that “whoever reads attentively the text of the so-called third secret of Fatima, will probably be disappointed or amazed, after all the speculation that has been made. We see here, depicted in a snapshot and with a symbolic message hard to interpret, the Church of martyrs of the past century. No big mystery is revealed; the veil of the future is not pierced.”
Fatima is in the end a call to conversion that is important now more than ever. Fatima is actually an appeal for conversion and penance launched as the anti-Christian forces have seemingly taken possession of the world.
This call for conversion today is more alive than ever. The meaning of Fatima lies in this appeal for conversion launched while the anti-Christian forces have seemingly taken the world.
Fatima’s apparitions were the first of the 20th century, but the 4th in a series of Marian apparitions that had taken place over 50 years. The Virgin Mary showed herself another three times during those days: at La Salette, France in 1864; at Lourdes, France, in 1858; and at Castelpetroso, Italy, in 1888.
All of these apparitions were linked to the anti-Christian forces that wanted to put the Church outside society. These forces were in the end killing people’s hope.
This assassination of hope started a long time before. The first roots can be seen in the Lutheran Reformation, and it is probably not by chance that the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima falls in the year that marks the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. There was a conference in the Vatican, organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences – that, while conscious of the need to carry on ecumenical dialogue, sought to look at the historical facts.
Historical facts clarify that Luther did not come to reform a Church in ruin, as there were many movements of reform within the Church at the time; that Luther was not as scandalized by his visit in Rome as the usual narrative relates; and even that Luther did not nail his theses on the Wittenberg wall, but sent them to his bishop.
Whether Luther was manipulated or not, the Reformation became a tool of German princes to separate from Rome. They wanted to establish a new model of society, the same need that will blow the wind of Reformation over the Anglo-Saxon countries, as in the end happened with the Orthodox schism.
The Reformation introduced concepts related to the free examination of conscience and discernment according to conscience that are really much fashion today in the Church. These concepts are in fact at the origins of the diminishment of hope. There is no hope for men who stand alone in front of God and who are already predestined to go to Hell or Heaven, almost without any free will.
The notion of the primacy of conscience is sap for the lodges of the Freemasons: their constitution of 1717 was written by James Anderson, a Presbyterian pastor.
This concept of the free examination of conscience that makes men the measure of everything feeds the cultural movements that will lead to the French Revolution, to the birth of modern states and republics. The individual becomes the new god, but he is at the same time completely subordinated to the state. There is no truth that will set men free, as the Gospel says. There are instead the comfortable truths of politics with the aim of ruling nations.
It is striking, though, the very strong presence of God in history – a consolatory presence that can be seen in the coincidences of history. France, for example, lived before Portugal the secularizing trend and anti-Christian movements. And France had its Marian shrine before everyone else, at Lourdes.
The shrine is built with the contribution of everyone, and will be finally dedicated in 1876, with three days of celebration. In those days, Mary appeared to Estelle Faguette, the seer of Pellevoisin, and told her that she will be present to “conclude the party.”
Pellevoisin is not far from Lourdes. Thinking that the Church was going to recognize officially the apparition of Lourdes, a hotel was built in Pellevoisin to receive the thousands of pilgrim expected. The hotel was name “Hotel Notre Dame”. As soon as the hotel was built, in 1914, the First World War broke out. That war – it is important to remember – was moved by the elites of the belle epoque, that is, by the anti-clerical and Freemasonic middle class that had replaced the religion of Christianity with the religion of nationalism.
The conflict of “enlightened” Europe was a ruin for the hotel. After the war, pilgrims were not as many as was predicted. The Hotel was often half-empty.
In 1939 the same powers wage a new war, the Second World War. France awaits; its fortification line – the Maginot – is considered impenetrable.
As Germany is waging war in Europe, April 2, 1940 is the day when France commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the novelist Emile Zola, guru of a “religion of humanity and science” that was supposed to replace “the old Christian superstition.” Zola had also described the pilgrims in Lourdes as a “paure idiote,” an “irregular hysteria.”
The commemoration was celebrated in the Pantheon, in Paris, where Zola is buried. That Pantheon was in fact a Catholic church, dedicated to St. Genevieve, patroness of France, and was then turned into a civic temple. President Lebrun delivered a speech on the occasion. That speech is considered the final legacy of the French Third Republic, as German invades France less than a month after.
Marshall Philippe Petain’s collaborationist government begins. Among his provisions is the imprisonment of the France’s highest dignitaries, to be tried in order to assign the responsibilities of defeat. Where are these dignitaries imprisoned? In the Hotel Notre Dame, in Pellevoisin.
In that hotel, the Third Republic was in the end buried. Born in 1870 after France’s defeat against Prussia, it was among the fiercest sponsors of French laicité and was ruled by French Freemasonic lodges. These lodges were so filled with anti-Christian hatred that they removed from their constitution the reference to the Great Architect of the Universe, and even got rid of the prohibition against “stupid atheists” joining the Freemasons that is found in the 1717 Constitutions – thereby causing great scandal in the English lodges.
The Third Republic thus dies after about 70 years of life. Psalm 90 says that “our days may come to seventy years,”, and perhaps it is not by chance that even the Soviet Regime lasted only more or less for that number of years.
Marshal Petain gave also Lourdes back to the Church, cancelling the law that confiscated the shrine, and personally went in pilgrimage to give the shrine back to the legitimate owners. This decision was not annulled under the new course taken by Charles de Gaulle who otherwise cancelled all of Petain’s decrees and decisions.
These coincidences provoke a reflection, as history is made of revelation and symbols to be interpreted.
Nowadays, the war is waged on a different, more subtle ground. Whereas before, anti-Christian forces attempted to eradicate faith from the people of God. Now they work to dilute hope, until this hope disappears.
This aim is pursued via movies that show Christians are weakened or weak enough not to be martyrs. It is pursued via a consumerism that makes man a mere object. It is pursued via a hedonism that gives the man the pleasure of sex, but deprives him of the joy of being a family. “Sex will be only for recreation,” Carl Djerassi, the inventor of the oral contraceptive pill, said two years ago in an interview.
What is the hope for children who are born without knowing who their biological parents are because they were conceived with in vitro fertilization? What is the hope for mothers who sell their children before they are born, as they do with surrogacy? What is the hope for old, sick people who are encouraged to die by euthanasia? What is the hope for men who are mere individuals, without a community that can support them? What is the hope for people with no faith and no truth, forced to live in the uncertainty of their conscience without the certainty of a bigger love?
These are not just rhetorical questions. The new colonization of the human being plays over these topics, as shown by the 2012 Annual Report on the Social Teaching of the Church drafted by the Van Thuan Observatory. Even this new colonization – the Pope likes to speak of an “ideological colonization” – is made in the name of the progress.
These questions are at the basis of the dramatic situation of humanity today – a humanity that is almost bothered by religion as it is not able to give an answer to the deepest question: “Why believe?” This is the hardest persecution, because it is born from the heart of man.
100 years later, Fatima is one of the signs of hope. People are thirsty for hope. This thirst can be noted by the fact that people today are open to joining sects, or to place their trust in magicians and cheaters. In this desperation, the eternal struggle between good and evil is played out. This is why the Fatima prophecy deals with past events. But it is in fact valid anytime and everywhere.