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Recently, the Vatican released the contents of the “third secret” of Fatima. This is an old story, and many are not familiar with the event. Outside of the Roman Catholic Church, there are few, if any, that believe it actually happened. Believing in Fatima involves faith in God, the virgin birth of Jesus, and Catholic doctrines concerning Mary’s status not only as a Saint but also as “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven”. There is also an odd recurrence of the number 13 as the date when everything associated with Fatima occurs.

Here is the story:

In spring 1916, eight-year old Lucia Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto were tending sheep when they reported that they saw an angel. The Virgin Mary appeared five more times to these children near the town of Fatima, Portugal: May 13, June 13, July 13, September 13 and October 13, 1917. The Virgin told them that God had sent her with a message for people living in the twentieth century. At the time she promised that Heaven would give peace to the whole world if her requests for prayer, reparation and devotion were obeyed.

"If My requests are granted ... there will be peace" said Mary.

“Our Lady of Fatima” told the children that war is a punishment for sin. She warned that God would penalize the world for its disobedience to His will through war, hunger, and persecution of the Catholic Church, the Pope, and the faithful.

"If My requests are not granted, Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father (Pope) will suffer much and various nations will be annihilated."

In all her appearances, the “Blessed Mother” emphasized repeatedly the necessity of daily rosary praying, of wearing the “Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel”, and of performing acts of atonement and sacrifice. To prevent terrible admonition at the hands of Russia and to convert "that poor nation", Mary requested solemn public consecration of Russia to her “Immaculate Heart” by the Pope and all of the bishops. She also asked that the faithful practice a devotion of reparation on the first Saturday of five consecutive months.

The Virgin’s message contained three secrets, which she confided to the children on July 13, 1917. The first secret was a vision of hell "where the souls of poor sinners go" and contained an urgent plea from “Our Lady” for prayer and sacrifice to save them. The second secret specifically prophesied World War II and contained Mary’s solemn request for the consecration of Russia as a condition of world peace. She also predicted the triumph of her “Immaculate Heart” following the conversion "of that poor nation" to the Catholic faith.

“You saw hell where the souls of poor sinners go. In order to save them, God wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace."

At the time that she confided the Fatima secret to the three children, the Virgin also promised that God would work a great miracle the following October "so that all may believe." "On the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe."

On October 13th 1917, in the presence of 70,000 eyewitnesses, a miracle occurred in the sky above Fatima at the exact moment and spot that the children had announced earlier. Witnesses reported that the sun appeared to "dance" in the sky and appeared to fall to the ground before returning to its normal place.

This event has become known as "the Miracle of the Sun" and has been characterized as the greatest supernatural occurrence of the 20th century. As one Fatima authority has noted, this miracle "does not belong (only) to the domain of faith, or even that of science. Before all else it is an historical event." The Catholic Church has officially endorsed the Fatima message "as worthy of belief" since 1930. Francisco and Jacinta died of influenza within three years of the 1917 "dance of the sun." Lucia became a nun, and is living at a convent in Portugal.

Five successive popes have publicly indicated their approval of and belief in the validity and importance of the Fatima apparitions. Several popes have visited Fatima on solemn pilgrimage and Pope John Paul II has gone at least once in every decade of his pontificate.

The last part of the secret (the "Third Secret") was written down by Lucy Dos Santos, the lone living Fatima seer, in 1944 and has been in the possession of the Vatican since 1957. The third secret has now been revealed to be a prediction of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.

The Pope has publicly credited Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life during the assassination attempt in 1981, which took place on the 64th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition. The following year, while in Fatima to give thanks for Mary’s intervention, the Pope stated that "the message of Fatima is more relevant and more urgent" today than when Mary first appeared. On May 13, 1982, one year after the assassination attempt in St Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II traveled to Fatima, where he met Sr. Lucia. He believed he owed his survival to the direct intervention of the “Immaculate Heart of Mary”. He then consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart in collegial union with the Bishops of the Church.

Sr. Lucia later confirmed that this had fulfilled Our Lady's request. However, the Holy Father later requested that the statue of Our Lady from Fatima's Capelinha be sent to Rome, and then in collegial union with the Bishops of the Church, he specifically consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart on March 25, 1984.

"In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world."

In the years since the “Queen of Heaven's” appearances at Fatima, many books, pamphlets, recordings, films and videos have been produced as part of a growing movement of faith and devotion. Many Catholics believe that Mary's message is also designed for today. They suggest that Fatima is Heaven's intervention to save the world from war, hunger, and need, the Catholic Church from apostasy and disorder and the souls of millions from Hell. While severe in its warning of the terrible punishments for sin, Fatima is an affirming message of hope and peace for many Catholics.

"Only I can help you. My ‘Immaculate Heart’ will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."