Our Lady of Fátima (Portuguese: Nossa Senhora de Fátima, formally known as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima European Portuguese: [ˈnɔsɐ sɨˈɲoɾɐ dɨ ˈfatimɐ] (Brazilian Portuguese [ˈnɔsɐ sĩˈȷ̃ɔɾɐ dʒi ˈfatʃimɐ]) is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on apparitions reported to have been experienced by three shepherd children at Fátima. The three children were Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
Pope Pius XII granted a Canonical Coronation to the venerated image enshrined at the Chapel of the Apparitions on 13 May 1946 via his Papal Legate, Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella. The reported apparitions at Fátima were officially declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church, which commemorates the event on the same date. The events at Fátima gained fame due partly to elements of the secrets, prophecy and eschatology, particularly with regard to the Second World War and possibly more global wars in the future. Chief among these is also the alleged urgent need for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The first mention of an appearance of an angel appears in Lucia’s second memoir, written in 1937. In the spring and summer of 1916, nine-year-old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep at the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fátima, Portugal. They claimed to have experienced the visitation of an angel on three separate occasions. The angel, who identified himself as “The Angel of Peace”, taught them prayers, to make sacrifices, and to spend time in adoration of the Lord.
On May 13, 1917, the children purportedly saw a lady “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun”. The woman wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray “the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war”. While they had never spoken to anyone about the angel, Jacinta divulged her sightings to her family despite Lucia’s admonition to keep this experience private. Her disbelieving mother told neighbors as a joke, and within a day the whole village knew.
The children said that they had been bidden to return to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of the following month. Lucia’s mother sought counsel from the parish priest, Father Ferriera, who suggested she allow them to go and bring Lucia to him afterward that he might question her. The second appearance occurred on June 13, the feast of St. Anthony, patron of the local parish church. On this occasion the lady revealed that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken to Heaven soon but Lucia would live longer in order to spread her message and devotion to the Immaculate Heart. As the account of this meeting was written after the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta, it may be an instance of retrospective prophecy.
At this same visit, the lady told them to say the Rosary daily in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace and the end of the war. (Three months earlier, on April 21, the first contingent of Portuguese soldiers had embarked for the front lines.) The lady also allegedly revealed to the children a vision of hell, and entrusted to them a secret, “that was good for some and bad for others”. Ferreira later stated that Lucia told him that the lady told her, “I want you to come back on the thirteenth and to learn to read in order to understand what I want of you. …I don’t want more.”
Thousands of people flocked to Fátima and Aljustrel in the following months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator Artur Santos (no relation to Lúcia Santos), believing that the events were politically disruptive, intercepted and jailed the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria. The administrator interrogated and threatened the children to get them to divulge the contents of the secrets. Maria’s mother hoped the officials could persuade the children to end the affair and admit that they had lied. Lúcia told him everything short of the secrets, and offered to ask the Lady for permission to tell the Administrator the secrets. That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on the 13th, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary on 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, at nearby Valinhos.
The three children claimed to have experienced in total six apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between May 13 and October 13, 1917.
John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him to the Roman Catholic sanctuary at Fátima, Portugal and it was placed in the crown of the Virgin’s statue.
As early as July 1917 it was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13, so that all would believe. What happened then became known as the “Miracle of the Sun”. A huge crowd, variously estimated between 30,000 and 100,000, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had ceased and there was a thin layer of cloud. Lúcia, seeing light rising from the lady’s hands and the sun appearing as a silver disk, called out “look at the sun”. She later had no memory of saying this. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel. Witnesses gave widely varying descriptions of the “sun’s dance”. Poet Afonso Lopes Vieira and schoolteacher Delfina Lopes (with her students and other witnesses in the town of Alburita), reported that the solar phenomenon was visible up to forty kilometers away. However, the phenomenon was not visible in other parts of the globe.
Various explanations have been advanced. Auguste Meessen, a professor at the Institute of Physics, Catholic University of Leuven, points out that looking directly at the Sun is known to cause phosphene visual artifacts and temporary partial blindness. Meessen contends that retinal after-images produced after brief periods of sun gazing are a likely cause of the “dancing” effects, and the colour changes were caused by the bleaching of photosensitive retinal cells. Meessen observes that solar miracles have been witnessed in many places where people have been encouraged to stare at the sun. He cites the purported Marian apparitions at Heroldsbach, Bavaria, Germany (1949) as an example where exactly the same optical effects as at Fátima were witnessed by more than 10,000 people. However, critics of this theory point to the fact that the crowd was not encouraged to look at the sun until the alleged miracle was already underway- the children did not tell the crowd to expect a sun miracle. Additionally, people in towns up to forty kilometers away, who had no knowledge of the alleged supernatural events at Fatima, also reported seeing the phenomenon. Another theory is a mass hallucination stimulated by the religious fervor of the crowd.
Some onlookers reported other phenomena, including luminous mist and the showers of flower petals seen around and above the tree during previous visitations.
While the crowd was staring at the sun, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta said later they saw images of the Holy Family, Our Lady of Sorrows with Jesus Christ, and then Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They said they saw Saint Joseph and Jesus bless the people.
Francisco and Jacinta Marto succumbed to the flu epidemic of 1918. Francisco Marto died at home on April 4, 1919, at the age of ten. Jacinta died in hospital, at the age of nine on February 20, 1920. They are buried at the Sanctuary of Fátima, and were beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 13, 2000. Olímpia Marto said that her children happily predicted their own deaths many times to her and to curious pilgrims.
At the age of fourteen 14, Lúcia was sent to the school of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar. In 1928 she became a postulant at the Dorothean convent in Tui, just across the border. Lúcia continued to report private visions periodically throughout her life. She reported seeing the Virgin Mary again in 1925 at the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, Galicia (Spain). This time she said she was asked to convey the message of the First Saturday Devotions. By her account a subsequent vision of Christ as a child reiterated this request. In 1929, she reported that Mary returned and repeated her request for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She also reported an apparition in Rianxo, Galicia, in 1931, in which she said that Jesus visited her, taught her two prayers and delivered a message to give to the church’s hierarchy.
In 1936 and again in 1941, Sister Lúcia said that the Virgin Mary had predicted the deaths of two of the children during the second apparition on June 13, 1917. According to the Lucia’s 1941 account, on 13 June, Lúcia asked the Virgin if the three children would go to heaven when they died. She said that she heard Mary reply, “Yes, I shall take Francisco and Jacinta soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on Earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.”
An estimated 70,000 people assembled to witness the last of the promised appearances of the Lady in the Cova da Iria on October 13, 1917. The widely reported miracle of the sun was a factor that led to Fátima quickly becoming a major centre of pilgrimage. Two million pilgrims visited the site in the decade following the events of 1917. A small chapel – the Capelinha – was built by local people on the site of the apparitions. The construction was neither encouraged nor hindered by the Catholic Church authorities. On May 13, 1920, pilgrims defied government troops to install a statue of the Virgin Mary in the chapel, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first officially celebrated there in January 1924. A hostel for the sick was begun in that year. In 1927 the first rector of the sanctuary was appointed and a set of Stations of the Cross were erected on the mountain road. The foundation stone for the present basilica was laid the next year.
1930 was the year both of official church recognition of the apparition events as “worthy of belief” and the granting of a papal indulgence to pilgrims visiting Fátima. In 1935 the bodies of the visionaries Jacinta and Francisco were reinterred in the basilica. Pope Pius XII granted a Canonical Coronation of the statue of Our Lady of Fátima on 13 May 1946 which drew such large crowds that the entrance to the site had to be barred.
Today pilgrimage to the site goes on all year round and additional chapels, hospitals and other facilities have been constructed. The principal pilgrimage festivals take place on the thirteenth day of each month, from May to October, on the anniversaries of the original appearances. The largest crowds gather on 13 May and 13 October, when up to a million pilgrims have attended to pray and witness processions of the statue of Our Lady of Fátima, both during the day and b
Private revelations do not form part of the deposit of faith of the Catholic Church, and its members are not bound to believe in any of them. (Assent may be given based on the discernment of the Church and its judgment that an apparition is probable and worthy of pious credence.) With millions of followers and Roman Catholic believers, the reported visions at Fatima gathered widespread attention. After a canonical inquiry, the visions of Fátima were officially declared “worthy of belief” in October 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima.
The devotion to Our Lady of Fatima in the Roman Catholic Church has a long history of association with rightist and even fascist groups. At the time of the apparitions, Portugal was undergoing tensions between the secularizing Republican government and more conservative elements in society. The Catholic opposition compared the actions of the Portuguese government to the contemporary actions of the Russian Bolsheviks. Later in Spain, as the forces of the Republic gathered strength, the Virgin Mary was to be found leading the armies of the faithful ranged against the Godless. During the Spanish Second Republic, the Virgin Mary would be seen on Spanish soil at Ezquioga. Ramona Olazabal insisted Mary had marked the palms of her hands with a sword. Seers gained much credence in Integrist and Carlist circles. The visions at Ezquioga were widely covered in the press, as were the sixteen other visitations of the Virgin to Spain in 1931. Conservative elements in the Spanish Church actively encouraged the Fatima devotion as a way of countering the perceived threat of atheistic Communism. In Portugal and its former colony of Brazil, Fatima and right-wing groups were also strongly identified. When Hitler invaded Russia in 1941, many Catholics interpreted this in terms of the Fatima apparitions thinking the Virgin’s prophecy at long last was about to be fulfilled. Some Catholics willingly joined the fight and enlisted in the Spanish Army’s Blue Division that was engaged on the Eastern front. The publication of Sister Lucia’s Memoirs after the outbreak of WW II and the focus on Russia and “her errors” in the alleged messages of the Lady further renewed this anti-communist element. The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima, for instance, has always been strongly anti-Communist and often put the Fatima story into the context of the Cold War. The Blue Army is made up of Catholics and non-Catholics who believe that by dedicating themselves to daily prayer (specifically, of the Rosary) they can help to achieve world peace and put an end to the error of Communism. Organizations such as the Blue Army have gained the approbation of the Catholic Church. Other groups such as the International Fatima Rosary Crusade led by Fr. Nicholas Gruner have interpreted the message of Fatima in a more extreme fashion and have been censured by the Church. These groups are generally opposed not just to Communism, but to Modernism (Roman Catholicism), and the innovations of the Second Vatican Council.
The Fatima story developed in two parts: that which was known in 1917, and information later mentioned in Sr. Lucia’s subsequent memoirs written years later. These were written some years after the ecclesiastical review that led to the finding that the events in Fatima were “worthy of belief”, and therefore not subject to the same scrutiny. The early messages focused on the need to pray the rosary for peace and an end to World War I.
Despite the publicity at the time, the events in Fatima were not widely known outside Spain and Portugal until the publication of Lucia’s memoirs, starting in the late 1930s. Between 1935 and 1993 she wrote six memoirs. The first four, written between 1935 and 1941, is published under the title Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words. The fifth and six memoirs, written in 1989 and 1993, are published as Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words II.
In the mid-1930s the Bishop of Leiria encouraged Lucia (now Sister Maria Lucia das Dores) to write her memoirs, in the event that she might disclose further details of the 1917 apparitions. The first memoir, written in 1935 by Lucia, focused on the holiness of Jacinta Marto, who was by then popularly considered a saint. In the second memoir, written in 1937, she speaks more of her own life, the apparition of June 13, 1917, and makes mention for the first time of the earlier apparitions of the Angel of Peace.
In her third memoir, written in August 1941, Sister Lucia described three secrets which she said had been entrusted to the children during the apparition of July 13, 1917.
The first secret was a vision of hell, which Lucia said they experienced on July 13, 1917.
According to Lucia, the second secret, was a recommending for devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way to save souls and bring peace to the world. It predicted an end to the First World War, but predicted a worse one if people did not cease offending God. this second war would be presaged by a night illuminated by an unknown light, as a “great sign” that the time of chastisement was near. To avert this, Mary would return to ask for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and the establishment of the First Saturday Devotions. If her requests were heeded, Russia would be converted, and there would be peace; if not, Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. It ended with a promise that in the end, the Immaculate Heart would triumph. The Holy Father would consecrate Russia to Mary, and a period of peace would be granted to the world.”
On January 25, 1938 (during solar cycle 17), bright lights, an aurora borealis appeared over the northern hemisphere, including in places as far south as North Africa, Bermuda and California. It was the widest occurrence of the aurora since 1709 and people in Paris and elsewhere believed a great fire was burning and fire departments were called. Sister Lúcia indicated that it was the sign foretold and so apprised her superior and the bishop in letters the following day. Just over a month later, Hitler seized Austria and eight months later invaded Czechoslovakia.
According to Sister Lúcia, the Virgin Mary promised that the Consecration of Russia would lead to Russia’s conversion and an era of peace.
In 1952 the Pope said to the Russian people and the Stalinist regime that the Virgin Mary was always victorious. “The gates of hell will never prevail, where she offers her protection. She is the good mother, the mother of all, and it has never been heard, that those who seek her protection, will not receive it. With this certainty, the Pope dedicates all people of Russia to the immaculate heart of the Virgin. She will help! Error and atheism will be overcome with her assistance and divine grace.”
Popes Pius XII and John Paul II both had a special relationship with Our Lady of Fátima. Pope Benedict XV began Pacelli’s church career, elevating him to archbishop in the Sistine Chapel on May 13, 1917, the date of the first reported apparition. Pius XII was laid to rest in the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica on October 13, 1958, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima.
Pope John Paul II again consecrated the entire world to the Virgin Mary in 1984, without explicitly mentioning Russia. Some believe that Sister Lúcia verified that this ceremony fulfilled the requests of the Virgin Mary. However, in the Blue Army’s Spanish magazine, Sol de Fátima, in the September 1985 issue, Sister Lúcia said that the ceremony did not fulfill the Virgin Mary’s request, as there was no specific mention of Russia, and “many bishops attached no importance to it.” In 2001, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone issued a statement, claiming that he had met with Sister Lúcia, who reportedly told him, “I have already said that the consecration desired by Our Lady was made in 1984, and has been accepted in Heaven.” Sister Lúcia died on February 13, 2005, without making any public statement of her own to settle the issue.
Some maintain that, according to Lúcia and Fátima advocates such as Abbé Georges de Nantes, Fr. Paul Kramer and Nicholas Gruner, Russia has never been specifically consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by any Pope simultaneously with all the world’s bishops, which is what Lúcia in the 1985 interview had said Mary had asked for.
However, by letters of August 29, 1989 and July 3, 1990, she stated that the consecration had been completed; indeed in the 1990 letter in response to a question by the Rev. Father Robert J. Fox, she confirmed:
I come to answer your question, “If the consecration made by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1984 in union with all the bishops of the world, accomplished the conditions for the consecration of Russia according to the request of Our Lady in Tuy on June 13 of 1929?” Yes, it was accomplished, and since then I have said that it was made.
And I say that no other person responds for me, it is I who receive and open all letters and respond to them.
In the meantime, the conception of Theotokos Derzhavnaya, Orthodox Christian venerated icon, points out that Virgin Mary is considered actual Tsarina of Russia by the religious appeal of Nicholas II; thus “Consecration of Russia” may refer to return of Russian monarchy. The icon was brought to Fatima in 2003 and 2014, together with another significant icon, the Theotokos of Port Arthur.
The third secret, a vision of the death of the Pope and other religious figures, was transcribed by the Bishop of Leiria and reads:
Many Roman Catholics recite prayers based on Our Lady of Fátima. Lúcia later said that, in 1916, she and her cousins had several visions of an angel calling himself the “Angel of Portugal” and the “Angel of Peace” who taught them to bow with their heads to the ground and to say “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.” Lúcia later set this prayer to music and a recording exists of her singing it. It was also said that sometime later the angel returned and taught them a eucharistic devotion now known as the Angel Prayer.
Lúcia said that the Lady emphasized Acts of Reparation and prayers to console Jesus for the sins of the world. Lúcia said that Mary’s words were, “When you make some sacrifice, say ‘O Jesus, it is for your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'” At the first apparition, Lúcia wrote, the children were so moved by the radiance they perceived that they involuntarily said “Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.” Lúcia also said that she heard Mary ask for these words to be added to the Rosary after the Gloria Patri prayer: “O my Jesus, pardon us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need.”
In the tradition of Marian visitations, the “conversion of sinners” is not necessarily religious conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, for that would be the “conversion of heretics or apostates who are ‘outside the church and alien to the Christian Faith’ according to Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical on the Unity of the Church, Satis Cognitum”. Conversion of sinners refers to general repentance and attempt to amend one’s life according to the teachings of Jesus for those true Catholics who do profess the faith truly, but are fallen into sins. Lúcia wrote that she and her cousins defined “sinners” not as non-Catholics but as those who had fallen away from the church or, more specifically, willfully indulged in sinful activity, particularly “sins of the flesh” and “acts of injustice and a lack of charity towards the poor, widows and orphans, the ignorant and the helpless” which she said were even worse than sins of impurity.
The cultus of the Immaculate Heart is the central message of Fatima. Ecclesiastical approbation does not imply that the Church provides an infallible guarantee on the supernatural nature of the event.
In October 1930 Bishop da Silva declared that the apparitions at Fatima were “worthy of belief”, and approved public devotion to the Blessed Virgin under the title Our Lady of Fatima.was permitted. The Vatican responded with granting indulgences and permitting special Liturgies of the Mass to be celebrated in Fátima.
Theologians such as Karl Rahner argued, however, that Popes, by authoritatively fostering the Marian veneration in places as Fátima and Lourdes, motivate the faithful into an acceptance of divine faith.
In 1939, Eugenio Pacelli, who was consecrated as a bishop on May 13, 1917 — the day of the first apparition — was elected to the papacy as Pius XII, and became the Pope of Fátima. One year after World War II had started, Sister Lúcia asked Pope Pius XII to consecrate the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She repeated this request on December 2, 1940, stating in the year 1929, the Blessed Lady requested in another apparition the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She promised the conversion of Russia from its errors.
On May 13, 1942, the 25th anniversary of the first apparition and the silver jubilee of the episcopal consecration of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican published the Message and Secret of Fátima. On October 31, 1942, Pope Pius XII, in a radio address, informed the people of Portugal about the apparitions of Fátima, consecrating the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin with specific mention of Russia. (See below) On December 8, 1942, the Pontiff officially and solemnly declared this consecration in a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. On May 13, 1946, Cardinal Masalla, the personal delegate of Pius XII, crowned in his name Our Lady of Fátima, as the Pope issued a second message about Fátima:
On 1 May 1948, in Auspicia quaedam, Pope Pius XII requested the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of every Catholic family, parish and diocese.
On May 18, 1950, the Pope again sent a message to the people of Portugal regarding Fátima: “May Portugal never forget the heavenly message of Fátima, which, before anybody else she was blessed to hear. To keep Fátima in your heart and to translate Fátima into deeds, is the best guarantee for ever more graces”. In numerous additional messages, and in his encyclicals Fulgens corona (1953), and Ad Caeli Reginam (1954), Pius XII encouraged the veneration of the Virgin in Fátima.
At the end of the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in an unusual gesture, announced his own pilgrimage to the sanctuary on the fiftieth anniversary of the first apparition. On May 13, 1967, he prayed at the shrine together with Sister Lúcia. This historic gesture further cemented the official support for Fátima. Pope John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following the assassination attempt on Wednesday, May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, in 1981. He followed the footsteps of Paul VI, on May 12, 1987, to express his gratitude to the Virgin Mary for saving his life. The following day, he renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin.
On May 12 and 13, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima and strongly stated his acceptance of the supernatural origin of the Fátima apparitions. On the first day, the Pope arrived at the Chapel of Apparitions to pray and gave a Golden Rose to Our Lady of Fátima “as a homage of gratitude from the Pope for the marvels that the Almighty has worked through you in the hearts of so many who come as pilgrims to this your maternal home“. The Pope also recalled the “invisible hand” that saved John Paul II and said in a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary that “it is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the ‘bullet’ of our anxieties and sufferings“. On the second day, Pope Benedict’s homily pronounced in front of more than 500,000 pilgrims a reference to the Fátima prophecy about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and related it to the final “glory of the Most Holy Trinity”.
Several images of Our Lady of Fatima has merited various acclamations; among which are the following: