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The BBC's David Campanale
"No great mystery is solved"
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The BBC's David Willey
"Discussion about the identity of the bishop dressed in white seems bound to continue despite the Vatican's pronouncement"
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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Vatican reveals Fatima secret
The Pope meets  Sister Lucia dos Santos
The Pope had talks with the surviving visionary
The Vatican has published the full text of the third secret of Fatima and an accompanying commentary.

The prophecy is believed to have been given to three Portuguese children during a series of apparitions by the Virgin Mary in 1917.

No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. A careful reading of the text will probably prove disappointing.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
At the release of the text Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger reiterated the Vatican line that the secret referred to events which have already happened.

The cardinal said that the secret predicted the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 by a Turk, Ali Agca, in St Peter's Square in Rome.

That shooting happened on 13 May - the same day as the first of the Fatima visions in 1917.

The text, written down more than 50 years ago by one of the children, refers to a bishop dressed in white being killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him.

The secret was long feared to predict an apocalypse too terrible to make public.

'No great mystery'

The Vatican broke decades of silence on the secret during Pope John Paul ll's visit to the Fatima shrine in Portugal last month, declaring that it foretold the attempted assassination of the Pope.

The original text the third Fatima secret
The original text the third Fatima secret
"No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger writes in the commentary laying out the Vatican's interpretation of the secret.

"A careful reading of the text will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred," Cardinal Ratzinger said at press conference to mark the release of the document.

Referring to one of the striking images in the secret, Cardinal Ratzinger said the terrifying vision of an angel with a flaming sword, "represents the threat of judgement which looms over the world".

Past history

Asked whether the secrets of Fatima related to the past and not to any future event, Cardinal Ratzinger replied: "I think so. Here we're dealing with a very specific history."

Fatima visionaries
Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the visionaries, died in childhood
Cardinal Ratzinger interpreted the message of Fatima as an understanding that the future is not irrevocably determined in advance, and can be changed by prayer.

The reason why the Pope decided to publish now is that the events referred to in the Fatima prophesy occurred during the 20th century, which is now past.

The contents of the first two secrets, relating to God's punishment for mankind's sins, a prophecy of the outbreak of the World War II, and a prophecy of the Soviet Union's efforts to destroy religion under Communism, have been known for many years.

The bishop in the vision

BBC Rome correspondent David Willey says discussion about the identity of the bishop dressed in white seems bound to continue despite the Vatican's pronouncement.

Already some Catholics are identifying him not with the Pope and his attempted assassination of 1981, but with the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador who was gunned down as he was saying mass in 1980.

The official publication of the third secret may end decades of speculation about exactly what Fatima foretold, but it is expected to strengthen the cult of Mary within the Catholic Church.

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See also:

26 Jun 00 | Europe
Text of the third Fatima secret
13 May 00 | Europe
Pope blesses Fatima children
12 May 00 | Europe
Children who saw a vision
24 Dec 99 | Europe
Pope launches Holy Year
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