1. On June 26 of A.D. 2000, the Vatican released the text of the third part of the secret of Fatima. Along with the text, the Vatican included an interpretation of the third part of the secret written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). According to the Catholic Free Press (June 30, 2000): “At a Vatican press conference, Cardinal Ratzinger said, ‘There does not exist an official definition or official interpretation of this vision on the part of the church.’ ” Cardinal Ratzinger's interpretation is therefore unofficial. His interpretation does contain numerous good insights into the symbolism and meaning of the third secret of Fatima. I encourage everyone interested in Fatima to read it on the Vatican web page.
2. Pope John Paul II has publicly stated that he believes this part of the secret of Fatima refers in part to the failed attempt on his life on May 13 of 1981. One of the apparitions at Fatima occurred on May 13. However, it is clear from the text of the secret that the account of the martyrdoms of Bishops, priests, religious, and laypersons refers to much more than the martyrdom of one individual:
The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917.
I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
The third secret of Fatima is about the martyrdom of bishops, priests, religious, and laypersons. Cardinals Soldano and Ratzinger have stated publicly that they believe this refers to past events in the Church. Certainly part of the meaning does refer to the many, many holy persons who, in the past, have suffered much and died because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
3. But I say more. The third part of the secret of Fatima follows the second part, and so the events of the third part occur after the events of the second part. At the end of the second part of the secret, the Virgin Mary says: “The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”50 Thus the martyrdoms described by the third secret will occur after the consecration of Russia and a period of relative peace in the world.
According to Sister Lucia (the visionary of Fatima) and Cardinal Ratzinger, this act of consecration occurred on March 25, 1984. Not long afterwards, the U.S.S.R. was disbanded, and Russia became a democratic country with much greater freedom of religion than in previous decades. Russia has been consecrated. And since that time there has been no major persecution of Christians resulting in the large number of martyrdoms described by the third part of the secret of Fatima. Therefore, the third part of the secret refers mainly to the future, not the past. The third part of the secret of Fatima describes a Great Martyrdom, which will include the martyrdom of the Pope as well as of many other Bishops, priests, religious, and laypersons. This Great Martyrdom is yet to occur.
The book of Revelation predicts a time of many martyrs in the Church (Rev 6:9-11). In that passage, the past martyrs of the Church ask how much longer until God judges the earth.
“Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” (Rev 6:11).
This description of the martyrs in heaven waiting for additional martyrdoms to occur on earth is the fifth seal of the seven seals from the book of Revelation. The fifth seal is a time of Great Martyrdom for the Church on earth. And this is exactly what is predicted by the third part of the secret of Fatima—a future Great Martyrdom.
4. When will this Great Martyrdom occur? Notice that the description of the deaths of the many bishops, priests, religious, and laypersons follows after the description of the Pope passing through a big city half in ruins. The city which the Pope passes through is Rome, for the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. As he passes through Rome, the Pope sees many corpses and prays for the many who have already died. After this, the Pope is martyred. This is one meaning of the third secret of Fatima:
When the city of Rome is half in ruins, then the Pope will go to his martyrdom.
Does the third secret of Fatima refer to Pope John Paul II? I believe that the third secret refers to the future martyrdom of a Pope, but not John Paul II. The second Pope after John Paul II (the one Saint Malachy refers to as “Peter the Roman”) is the Pope who will be martyred as described in the third secret of Fatima. Notice that the third secret of Fatima states that the Holy Father and the others were actually killed. But in 1981 Pope John Paul II was not killed and this attempt on his life was not followed by the martyrdoms of many others. Therefore, this martyrdom is yet to come. (For details, read Jeremiah 52:1-17.)
The Pope described in the third secret of Fatima will die a martyr for the Faith, after the city of Rome is half in ruins. [Formerly, I thought that this martyr would be Pope John Paul II. I was mistaken.] Now I believe it will be the second Pope after John Paul II. That Pope will reign during the time of the war between the Arab nations and Europe, and his martyrdom will occur during that war. He will be captured in A.D. 2012 and taken to his martyrdom in Syria and Iraq.
5. After describing the martyrdom of the Pope, the secret of Fatima describes the martyrdoms of other bishops, priests, religious, and laypersons. Therefore, sometime after “Peter the Roman” is martyred, many more faithful Christians will follow him to martyrdom. A time of great suffering and persecution for the Church will begin with the martyrdom of this Pope, the second Pope after Pope John Paul II.
Many Christians will be martyred during the war between the Arab nations and Europe. There will also be martyrdoms during the years that the Arab forces occupy Europe and parts of Africa. But the greatest number of martyrdoms will occur during the 2030’s, when the Great Martyrdom described in the book of Revelation (Rev 6:9-11) occurs.
6. In the third secret of Fatima, angels take the blood of the many martyrs and sprinkle it on the many souls which are making their way to God. This means that these many martyrdoms will help to strengthen and purify all the faithful servants of God on earth. The Church will increase in holiness and all virtue with the help of the prayers and sufferings of these many martyrs. The second part of the secret of Fatima contains a conditional statement—if Russia is not consecrated, then bad things will happen. But the third part of the secret contains no such conditional statement. Furthermore, the third part of the secret of Fatima predicts the same Great Martyrdom as is revealed in Sacred Scripture (Rev 6:9-11). Therefore, the martyrdoms predicted by the third part of the secret of Fatima cannot fail to occur at the proper time.
7. How can this prediction of future martyrdoms be known with certainty and be inevitable? How can the future be known with certainty when freewill decisions have not yet been made?
God dwells in Eternity. God is unbounded by Time, unlimited by Time, beyond the restrictions of Time and Place. From Eternity, beyond Time, God sees what we call the future just the same as He sees the past and the present. The past, present, and future are all the same to God.
From our point of view, within Time, we have not yet made our future decisions. We know not what we ourselves will decide to do. We can decide as we see fit and our free will remains free. Yet from the point of view of Eternity (outside of Time) these future events and future free will decisions have already occurred. And the past cannot be changed. You can know the past free will decisions that you made and yet you cannot change these once they are past. And so it is with the future. God knows with certainty the decisions and events of our future without compromising freewill in the least because these future events are to God as the past is to us.
Allow me to phrase this same teaching in a different way. God is not confined within Today, remembering what happened Yesterday and using some special power to figure out what will happen Tomorrow. God does not stand within one point in Time and look ahead to see what will happen at a future point in Time. God is present throughout all of Time and all of Creation all in one single timeless Act, for God is One. God knows with certainty what will happen in the future because God exists beyond Time and throughout Time. God encompasses all things—all times, all places, all events—in One Eternal Act. Therefore God can reveal future events through Sacred Scripture, through visions of the Virgin Mary, or through any other means He chooses, and these events can be known with certainty and without compromising freewill in the least.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
(This article is simply a reprint of Appendix I from my book, The Bible and the Future of the World, 5th edition. The same text appeared in the 4th edition of the book as well.)