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    The Fatima Secret (Whitley Strieber's Hidden Agendas)

    Excerpted from
    The Fatima Secret (Whitley Strieber's Hidden Agendas)
    By Michael Hesemann

    During March 1957 Bishop Venancio visited the Vatican diplomatic office in Lisbon to hand over the documents, which included the envelope, still sealed with wax. He admitted how reluctant he was to part with it. "It will be much safer in Rome than with you," he was told. The pope wanted to have the secret under his control in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, even by mistake. The envelope was kept in the most secure part of the Vatican, the private quarters of Pope Pius XII. When the French journalist Robert Serrou of Paris Match was given permission to photograph the pope's private apartment on May 14, 1957, he noticed a small wooden safe standing on a table, bearing the words "Secret of the Holy Office." "What's in it?" he asked the pope's housekeeper. "The Third Secret of Fatima" was her reply. Naturally, the photograph of the safe was the main item in Serrou's article. Did Pius XII ever read the document? Probably not. One can assume that he, too, was waiting for 1960, the magical date set for the opening of the seal.

    But it was not to be. He died on October 9, 1958, a year after the death of da Silva, the bishop of Leiria. When the envelope was brought to his successor, Pope John XXIII, at Castelgondolfo, the seal on the envelope was still intact.

    But fourteen months after the secret was brought to Rome, a leak occurred. On December 26, 1957, Sister Lucia was visited by a Mexican priest, Father Fuentes. They spoke to each other for hours. The situation of the world came up, and Lucia hinted at the contents of the third revelation.

    On May 22, 1958, after his return to Mexico, Father Fuentes gave a lecture at a missionary to a group of nuns. During his speech he talked about the important parts of his conversation with Sister Lucia. Soon after that he published the text of his speech.

    "When I met her at her convent," he said, "she was very pale and exhausted, and very sad. The first thing she said to me was 'Father, the Most Holy Virgin is filled with sorrow, for no one pays any attention to her message.'"

    One of the things he reported she said was "Tell them, Father, that the Most Holy Virgin told my cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, and me, that many nations will vanish from the face of the earth. She said that Russia would be the instrument of punishment, if we do not convert that poor nation before it happens."

    "What saddens her most," he said, "is the fall of the souls of the priests and members of religious orders. The devil knows that the souls of the clergy, who fall from their glorious calling, drag countless souls with them into hell."

    Lucia also told him that "the Most Holy Virgin did not tell me that we are living through the last days of the world, but I understood that we are."

    The publication of Father Fuentes's speech set off a scandal. He was accused of having taken advantage of his visit to Sister Lucia for the sake of making sensational statements. Owing to his indiscretion Father Fuentes was relieved of his office by the Vatican.

    When, early in 1959, a high official in the Vatican suggested to Pope John XXIII that Sister Lucia be permitted to speak to the world over the radio, he turned him down. "It seemed as if he personally preferred her to be silent," his private secretary wrote later. Rome was preparing for the Second Vatican Council, and the air was filled with a sense of hope and a new beginning. No one wanted to listen to "prophets of doom," as John XXIII called them. Was he hinting that the Third Secret had a depressing message for the world?

    Finally, the person who was in charge of keeping the envelope safe asked him, "Holy Father, don't you want to see it?"

    He answered, "I'll let you know when you should bring it to me." Some time elapsed. When he went to Castelgondolfo in August for the summer holidays, he was surrounded by peace and quiet, so perhaps he felt the time had come. Thus Pope John decided to do what his predecessor, out of respect for a falsely interpreted date, had not had the courage to do: he opened the envelope containing the message of Fatima.

    On August 17, 1959, John XXIII read the text of the Third Secret slowly, with trembling hands. The text was difficult and since he did not speak Portuguese, he had to get help from an interpreter more than once. His confessor was there as well, to give him support and encouragement. When he realized what it was all about, his face turned white as chalk.

    The three men sat and discussed the contents of Lucia's writing until late at night, then the pontiff made his decision. "I cannot publish this and will not publish it. I'll leave it for others to do so. It is certain that it does not deal with my reign." He put Lucia's letter back in its envelope, together with a personal note in which he wrote down the reasons for his decision. Back in Rome he called his closest advisors together and told them about the contents of the secret as well as his decision not to make them public. He made them all swear to keep the secret.

    The French author Jacques Vallee quotes a Vatican insider regarding this secret meeting. "The meeting was strictly confidential and took place in the pope's study. A secretary saw the cardinals when they came out of the room, and said their expressions were filled with horror. The secretary stood up and approached one of them, whom he knew well. But he was gently but firmly pushed aside by the pope, who went past as if he had seen a ghost."

    At the "Fatima 2000" Conference in November 1995 the former secretary of Cardinal Bea, Dr. Malachi Martin, recalled the reaction of the cardinal after he left the secret meeting. He said that the cardinal was obviously shaken, but also annoyed that the pope would not publish the Third Secret. Dr. Martin was later told the contents of the Third Secret by Pope John.

    The closer the year 1960 approached, the more feverishly Catholics looked forward to the revelation of the "Third Secret." There was hardly a newspaper around that did not speculate about the contents of the revelation and the date on which the Holy Father would publish it. May 13, 1960, the forty-third anniversary of the first apparition, was the favorite guess. The feelings of the public veered between hopeful expectation and dread that they were going to hear negative prophecies. Suddenly an announcement came from the Rome office of the Portuguese news agency on February 8, destroying all hopes of an early publication.

    It said, "The Secret of Fatima is not to be published at all, according to sources in the Vatican. Reliable circles in the Vatican have informed the United Press International that the letter, in which Sister Lucia wrote down the message given to the three little shepherds at the Cova da Iria, has never been opened.

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