1960: THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
HE Most Blessed Virgin had fixed the year 1960 as the latest date for the revelation of the Third Secret. For what reason? Because, as Lucy told Cardinal Ottaviani in May 1955, its significance would then be «clearer»1.
However, the Bishop of Fatima could have revealed it, and Heaven had authorised him to do so, as soon as he took possession of it on June 17, 19442. Because the events predicted were starting to be fulfilled, the Secret could have been correctly understood and interpreted from that time.
«The flaming sword in the Angel’s left hand» represented, in allegorical form, the diffusion of the «errors of Russia throughout the world», with their train of «wars and persecutions against the Church». Had it been published in 1944, the Secret would have put the world on its guard against Russia by showing it the Angel with the flashing sword, and it would have reminded the Holy Church’s hierarchy of the necessity and urgency of satisfying Our Lady’s requests.
As Russia had not been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and as the devotion of reparation had neither been approved nor propagated by the Holy Father, God used Russia, possessed by communism, as the devastating scourge and rod of His anger against all humanity. Thus it was that, by the end of the Forties, the expansion of communism was no longer a European affair, it had moved on to the world stage: decolonisation would deliver the countries of the Third World up to bolshevism and famine. The flames from the sword of the Angel of Extermination were spreading into Asia and Africa.
To understand the magnitude of the danger threatening the world in 1960, one need only open a history outline: «The multiplicity of local conflicts, the belligerence of the USSR and the decline of the United States, appeared to be transforming the Cold War into a Third World War, seen as the possible destruction of the planet by atomic fire. On several points of the globe, the clash between the two power blocs became so acute that a global conflagration was to be feared.3»
In fact Khrushchev’s policies almost precipitated Russia into an atomic war when the Cuban crisis reached its boiling point, in October 1962.
In those years, the most perceptive minds were alarmed at the unconcern of Western Catholics at a time when the communists were conquering immense territories. In his Letter to my Friends of January 1, 1959, the Abbé de Nantes wrote:
«Our frivolity is terrifying. We doubtless believe in the protection of American missiles just as the people of Jerusalem trusted the chariots and horses of Egypt, that treacherous ally which always let them down in the hour of danger. And we fail to see the cunning, implacable barbarity of Russian communism coursing towards us, just like the Assyrian armies! The fall of Budapest unnerved us for a week, the destruction of the Christian Church in Tonkin – the most beautiful of Asia’s Churches – scarcely moved us at all. We refuse to listen to the warnings of China’ exiles who see in us the same errors and the same compromises that were fatal over there. Africa has been won by a dizzyingly expanding Islam while the communist party puts down solid roots there… and we are quite content with everything that goes on in the world because it fits in with “our generous ideas”, because it only affects us from a distance, and ultimately because if we had to take up the arms of the Crusade, we would first have to bestir ourselves from our lethargy […].
«The prevailing spirit of the times is exactly that denounced by Isaiah: those most attached to their comfort and material security are those who, in word and desire, are giving most aid to the rise of the barbarism all around us. One day, as they stand over our ruins, people will say that we were led to the abattoir (or to martyrdom) by those whose pride was only equalled by their egoism and whose love of an easy life and their cowardice led them to flatter that enemy about whom the Holy Father reminded us that he is “God’s enemy even before ours”, and all without the least concern for “the defence of Christian principles which are the rampart of true justice, now and for all times”. This blindness, compounded of pride and egoism, can only be cleansed by bloodshed.
«That is why there is every reason to fear or to presume that God requires of us rather more than a ballot paper if we are to rediscover the path to greatness. There is also a blood tax! Our soldiers in Algeria are not the last survivors of the colonial wars of yesterday, but the first, alas, in the coming general mêlée of the peoples.4»
This was exactly the grave warning that Our Mother in Heaven wished to give
Her children, by 1960 at the latest, through the disclosure to the world of the
Secret’s tragic visions: the Angel’s call to penance would have awakened
the zeal of the men of the Church and of consecrated souls, and would have
turned them away from the immense apostasy into which «the errors of Russia»
were going to drag them.
CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES DECIMATED BY PERSECUTION.
Wherever it spread, the communist leprosy provoked bloody persecutions against the Church, just as the second part of the Secret had prophesied:
«If not, it [Russia] will spread its errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.»
It is necessary to recall these prophecies and to see how they were fulfilled, since, according to Sister Lucy, the visions in the Third Secret are a symbolic representation of them5.
Since the annexation of West Ukraine by the Soviets in 1939, and then of the Baltic States in 1940, the Catholic Church was severely persecuted in this part of the world6. After the Second World War, the Catholic hierarchy was totally eliminated in Rumania, Albania and Bulgaria: hounded from their episcopal sees, the bishops died in prison or in forced labour camps, or else remained incarcerated.
In the Ukraine, it was Nikita Khrushchev, then First Secretary of the Ukraine Communist Party, who in 1945 unleashed the most terrible of the persecutions against the Church of the Eastern Rite in union with the See of Peter.
«On April 11, 1945», recounts Msgr. Slipyj, «I was arrested with all the other bishops. Less than a year later, more than eight hundred priests had already followed us into captivity. From March 8 to 10, the illegal Synod of Lviv was staged. Under atheist pressure, it proclaimed the “reunification” of the Ukrainian Catholic Church with Orthodoxy, dominated by the Soviet regime.
«This “reunification”, and hence the official liquidation of our Church, was effected by brute force. The bishops were deported to all corners of the Soviet Union. Almost all have since died or been killed in captivity. Each of us had to climb his own Calvary. Now that I am eighty-eight, my memory of Janiseisk, Mordovia, Polaria, Inta and Siberia is fading, but it was a heavy cross at the time. I thank the Almighty for having given me the strength to bear this cross for almost eighteen years and I respectfully pay homage to my ten colleagues in the episcopate, to the more than 1,400 priests and 800 nuns, to the tens of thousands of the faithful who, in captivity, sealed by the sacrifice of their lives their fidelity to the Pope, to the Apostolic Roman See and to the Church Universal.
«Our priests had a choice: either to join the Church of the regime and thus deny the universal Catholic unity or to undergo, for at least ten years, the painful fate of deportation along with all the disciplinary measures which that entails. The immense majority of priests chose the path of the prisons and concentration camps of the Soviet Union.
«From 1945 to 1955, one of our best priests was in the camps of Potma, Sarovo, Javas, Uljanovo and Polivanovo. He wrote to his parishioners: “I accept this captivity as a penance and I offer it up as a sacrifice so that you may be spared this cross. I bless you and I pray for you. Five times a day I pray for the parishioners. On Sundays I celebrate the sacred liturgy. Every day, I celebrate a moleben (office of prayers)… They suggested to me that I deny my faith, but I refused. The cause of God must triumph. Hold on to the faith of your ancestors!”7»
This letter is an excellent illustration of the heroic fidelity of so many Catholics persecuted by the Soviets, Catholics who, in the words of Pius XII, constituted «the Church of silence»8, since its «lips were sealed and its hands bound»9.
After it had ravaged Eastern Europe, the communist leprosy spread to Asia where flourishing Christian communities were decimated and almost eradicated by horrific persecutions. These countless martyrs are the very same whom the children of Fatima saw on July 13, 1917: «… and in the same way10 there died one after another Bishops, Priests, men and women religious, and various lay people, men and women of different ranks and positions.»
A rapid review of the bloody persecutions in the communist world during the Fifties will give us a better understanding of how and why the Secret would become «clearer» in 1960.
The case of the Church in China is emblematic:
After the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, on October 1, 1949, foreign missionaries were systematically arrested, imprisoned, questioned and tortured in a series of often interminable interrogations.
The Chinese communists expelled them with the plan of subjecting the Church to their power. But failing to rally the Chinese bishops to the schismatic principles of the “Movement of the Three Autonomies” founded in 1950, they attacked those Catholics who were indefectibly attached to the Roman See with such violence that it had all the appearance of a systematic liquidation of the Church.
For example, in Shanghai, on October 8, 1950, the Military Administration Committee decreed the dissolution of the Legion of Mary, which stood accused of being a secret and anti-revolutionary organisation.
«It was not a matter of making a few heads roll», stresses Jean Lefeuve, «but of stamping out all resistance. The whole city was mobilised in order to bring pressure to bear on just a few hundred legionaries, who were harried on all sides by the radio, the press, posters, advertising banners, shows and meetings.» Learning that one or two of the priests responsible for the Legion of Mary groups were leaning towards capitulation on the pretext of its being a lesser evil, several members of the catechism teams wrote them this letter, which they signed in their own blood:
«It is the Blood and death of Jesus that gave birth to our Mother the Church and procured her growth.
«And since then, like an immutable law punctuating the course of her millenary life, it has been the blood and death of Christians uniting their sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ which have, in their turn, ensured to the Church her vigour and fecundity. Now behold, the time has come for the Mystical Body of Jesus in China to give birth; for, in the fierce struggle that she undergoes today, the Church sees the announcement of new sons to be born to her. Happy are we to whom it has been given to live at such a time […].
«However, we have recently learned that the government is pressurising our directors to recognise as true the calumnies that the press is spreading about us. A rumour has even gone round that several of them were on the point of consenting. This news has made us tremble. On the day when there appears in the newspapers the signatures of priests confessing themselves convinced of the crimes laid against them and of all those calumnies that besmirch the Virgin, Her Legion and the Church, would our Christians, today so firm in the faith, be able to withstand such a shock? Or, owing to a moment of weakness and distraction, which is always to be feared at such times, might we not have to witness that appalling spectacle of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ taking itself apart member by member and dismantling itself altogether?
«Scarcely able to contain our tears at the thought, we have decided today to write this letter which we all sign in our own blood.
«May this blood, which is still fresh, transcribe onto this paper the violent desire of our hearts. May these drops of blood, a symbol of the union between us, bear witness to our fidelity to the redemptive Cross of Christ on which we wish to remain until the sacrifice is consummated.
«Because we fear that the weight of our sins may prevent our supplication from rising up to the Lord, we have spent these last few days in fasting and prayer. With all our soul, we unceasingly ask God for the strength to be faithful unto death. We also pray to Him for all our pastors, that He may grant them the grace to protect unflinchingly the purity of the integrity of the faith, to loyally maintain Christ’s “standpoint”, and to continue to guide us unfailingly along the road ahead, until victory.11»
One week after the catechists had made this admirable supplication and profession of faith, Father Beda Tsang’s martyrdom would procure a flood of graces, reanimating Shanghai’s dangerously menaced Christian community.
To recall the heroic perseverance of the Christian youth of that city, let us quote a letter sent by a young girl to one of her old teachers, an exiled nun, already arrived in Japan:
«When you receive this letter, I will already be in prison. I must present myself to the police on the 14th of this month. Do not forget this glorious date. I have disposed of all my personal effects with the exception of these photographs I am sending you: I cannot bear to destroy them. I beg you to keep them for me.
«Today, I went to say goodbye to Mother N. for I fear I will be unable to go to the station on the day she leaves for Japan. As I left her, I felt a dreadful sadness. I don’t have the courage to think about anything at all, only of Heaven.
«I was interrogated on several occasions. The first time, the interrogation lasted nine hours; the next time, three hours, and yesterday they kept me for five hours. They are moments that are hard to get through. My sister made herself sick worrying about me: she is in hospital.
«Pray for me: you cannot imagine just how much I suffer. Several of my friends betrayed me; pray and do penance that the Good Lord may forgive them. Most of the priests we know have been imprisoned. Don’t forget them in your prayers: that they may have the courage to accept martyrdom. The most painful thing of all is my family. The day my parents saw my name in the newspaper among the list of the accused, they fell on their knees begging me to abandon my faith. O my God! it was then that, for the first time, I fully understood what suffering can be.
«I have nothing further to offer apart from my affection. I offer it to you before my death, to you and to the Mothers who were so good to me. Even if I must lose my life, I prefer this death to the eternal death I would deserve if I denied my faith. Sing the Alleluia with me!12»
Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima was widespread in Shanghai’s Christian community, and it was certainly the daily recitation of the Rosary that won the grace of final perseverance for so many young martyrs.
The hierarchy of the Church of China, numbering one hundred and nineteen bishops in 1950, counted no more than twenty in 1955 after the expulsions and assassinations, and of these ten were in prison.
Unyielding in their plan to subjugate the Catholic communities which had survived despite the bloody persecutions, the communists forced them to join the small groups of “patriotic” Catholics. In 1957, Mao Tse Tung’s government created “the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics” along with its own parishes and churches; it was placed under the authority of the Bureau of Religious Affairs and tasked with repressing «the hounds of the reactionary Vatican».
This “patriotic Church” only took shape with the greatest difficulty. On June 29, 1958, in his encyclical Ad apostolorum principis, Pius XII declared that it was in a state of schism and he forbade Catholics to join it.
Nevertheless, the schism persisted. It must be said that the Chinese communists used every means possible to win over the recalcitrant. It was with anguish that the Benedictine Peter Zhou Bangjiu, a true confessor of the faith, saw himself becoming more and more isolated. «From the time I entered prison», he recounts, «up to the time I passed through the Bamboo Curtain [that is to say, between 1955 and 1984], I did not observe with my own eyes any one of the priests or faithful with whom I was imprisoned, continue to be loyal to the Lord. Why? Great and protracted pressure was applied by the Communist Party!» If Brother Peter Zhou Bangjiu managed to resist joyfully and heroically all the tortures inflicted upon him, it was by a grace of special election, something one discovers on reading his wonderful autobiographical account13.
On the death of Pius XII, the Catholic Church in China, which by now had gone underground, had almost completely disappeared. Here is a short summary of the ten years of persecutions, published in 1959:
«Of the 2,676 Chinese priests, 200 were shot or condemned to forced labour, 500 were exiled, and more than 500 are in prison including 9 Chinese bishops. The 632 Chinese brothers were disbanded; several were imprisoned or shot. Of the 5,112 Chinese nuns, 4,000 were disbanded, the others were forced to place themselves in the service of the communists; a great number of them were imprisoned.14»
Pius XII always remained well-informed and justly alarmed at the dramatic situation of the Church in those countries where the communists had seized power.
«The Catholic Church, for dozens of years, for the last ten years especially», he said in his radio message of September 2, 1956, «has endured one of the gravest and, in any event, most dangerous persecutions she has ever had to suffer […].
«Well may the Church be in anguish about her future in those vast regions where persecution reigns, for the enemy – thanks to the totalitarian State’s methods of coercion and to the refined indoctrination techniques used against individuals, particularly the younger generation and children – is deploying pressure tactics unknown to any persecutor of the Church of times past.15»
At John XXIII’s accession, it was therefore all too clear that, in countries enslaved to the communist yoke, the Church was in a dreadful situation.
In Lithuania which counted a population of 2,500,000 inhabitants, 85% of them Catholic, massive deportations had been carried out during the Stalin era: 400,000 Lithuanians had been distributed among thirty-nine USSR gulags. All the bishops, with the exception of Msgr. Paltarokas, had either been assassinated or deported.
Now the period of calm and first signs of a renaissance following Stalin’s death were not to last. In 1957, Msgr. Sladkevicius, recently consecrated, was seized and placed under house-arrest. In 1961, only one bishop still remained in his diocese: Msgr. Mazeles, who was extremely ill. Officially, deportations of the faithful had stopped; in reality, they had restarted; they were now being portrayed as “voluntary departures” to open up the virgin lands of Kazakhstan.
In Hungary, in 1960, priests and faithful who refused to join the Partisans for Peace or other progressive and crypto-communist associations, suffered police measures and diabolical harassment. «The situation in Hungary», reported Nouvelles de Chrétienté, «has become far worse since the autumn of 1959.16»
Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom, remained in the American embassy in Budapest where he had taken refuge when Hungary had been crushed and occupied by Soviet troops in 1956. He did not even leave it in 1960 to take part in his mother’s funeral. The regime’s police would have arrested him immediately.
The five or six residential bishops who still remained in office, were closely monitored and even replaced by a political commissioner. «The people call him “the bishop with a moustache”. It is he, in fact, who rules the diocese: he opens the correspondence, makes decisions, writes in the diocesan bulletin, chooses candidates for the seminary, supervises them, admits them to priestly ordination or dismisses them.» In short, he can «destroy the Church from within while staying in the shadows»17.
Let us leave Europe and go to Africa. Once flourishing Christian communities were now suffering the disastrous consequences of decolonisation: famine, communist dictatorship, religious, ethnic or tribal wars. Moreover, Islam was becoming increasingly threatening and aggressive, in Sudan for instance. The review Missi for December 1960 reported: «The population of southern Sudan, a large part of whom are Christian (50%), is being forcibly pushed by the governor in the direction of Islam. Every pupil who enrols at school, even if he is pagan, must choose between Islam and Catholicism. If he chooses Catholicism, he must obtain a permit signed by the village chief, who has been made to understand that he must not grant too great a number. There are countless vexations and restrictions imposed on Catholics, particularly the missionaries. The people dare not express themselves freely for fear of reprisals.» The persecutions instigated by Islam would only be aggravated and extended over the following decades.
The unprecedented gravity and extent of the attacks that the Church was suffering in the world when the Third Secret of Fatima should have been revealed, are perfectly summarised in two sentences which captioned a map of “the Church of silence”, presented in 1961 at the missionary exhibition in Lourdes: «During the first centuries of our era, 300,000 Christians were martyred. Today, from Berlin to Shanghai, from Siberia to Tonkin, 90,000,000 Catholics are being persecuted for our faith!»
No one could deny such a statement. Even the very modernist Cardinal Frings declared: «We must never forget that the last half-century has produced on its own more martyrs than the three centuries of Roman persecution.18»
As for our Father Superior, the Abbé de Nantes, he revealed precisely the primary cause of these appalling and terrifying massacres: «The Church, which has suffered persecution since the beginning, has in our times come up against the most formidable demoniacal power she has ever encountered.19»
It was these persecutions, caused by the errors of Russia, that the three shepherd children of Fatima had seen prophetically, on July 13, 1917, in the scenes of the Third Secret:
«… and in the same way there died one after another Bishops, Priests, men and women religious, and various lay people, men and women 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.»
Now this Secret should have enlightened the supreme hierarchy of the Church, Pope John XXIII in the first place, on the tragic situation of Christendom in 1960.
JOHN XXIII BURIES THE THIRD SECRET.
Two years before his elevation to the sovereign pontificate, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, Patriarch of Venice, had responded to the Bishop of Fatima’s invitation: he had come to preside at the Cova da Iria, along with Cardinal Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon, at the ceremonies of May 12 and 13, 1956, for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Portugal’s national consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So he was acquainted with the Fatima pilgrimage and the members of the Portuguese hierarchy who had officially recognised the apparitions of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and the striking miracles that accompanied them, such as the fall of the sun on October 13, 1917.
In Fatima, on May 13, 1956, during the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Portugal’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cardinal Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon (on the right, with the microphone), in the presence of Cardinal Roncalli (seated in the centre, near the altar) and Msgr. da Silva (seated in a wheelchair, on the left), recalls the circumstances and the fruits of this national consecration.
Performed on May 13, 1931, six months after the canonical recognition of the apparitions, the consecration pronounced that day by the whole episcopate earned for Portugal the privilege of being miraculously preserved from war: «Firstly, in 1936, at that infernal hour when blood was soaking the land of Spain. Then came the greatest war of all time: the fire spread to almost every nation… But Portugal, thanks to the protection of the Blessed Virgin, remained at peace!» For the first time, Cardinal Cerejeira publicly revealed the incontrovertible prophecy made by Sister Lucy who had told her bishop that Portugal would remain outside the conflict. He specified that he had received from Msgr. da Silva, in February 1939, a letter from the seer indicating that war was imminent, but that Portugal would be spared because of her consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Patriarch often repeated his testimony. As for example in his preface to Canon Barthas’ book, Fatima and World Destiny, published in 1957: «This unlettered nun had announced, from February 1939, with a miraculous precision, something which at the time was unforeseeable and appeared impossible.»
You will have seen on the previous page a photograph of Cardinal Roncalli listening to Cardinal Cerejeira explaining, in a speech to six hundred thousand pilgrims, the extraordinary fruits of Portugal’s national consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
«It is time to declare it publicly, it is thanks to this consecration – not to minimise the efforts of our leaders who were instruments of Providence – that, while the world was aflame, Portugal managed to remain at peace. Six to seven months before the date of September 1, 1939, the first day of the conflagration, the Bishop of Leiria sent me a letter from the seer, Sister Lucy, in which it was affirmed that the war predicted by Our Lady was about to break out, that God was going to wash the nations in their own blood, and that the peoples who had most distanced themselves from Christian precepts would endure the most; that Spain had already had its share of suffering. But that Portugal would be preserved from this war, through the protection of the Blessed Virgin.20»
So Cardinal Roncalli heard with his own ears the Patriarch of Lisbon proclaiming that Sister Lucy was a genuine prophetess.
What is more, according to M. C. de Bragança, the Patriarch of Venice was the beneficiary of an exceptional grace at the close of the ceremonies.
«His Eminence, who had celebrated the pontifical Mass, afterwards gave the papal blessing, by telegram of Pius XII, to the pilgrims gathered in the Cova da Iria. And during the blessing of the Blessed Sacrament for the sick, which both the Patriarchs gave simultaneously, it was granted to him who would become Pope John XXIII to see one of the disabled people, who had received his blessing, miraculously cured before his eyes.21»
Nevertheless, on the day after these impressive ceremonies, Cardinal Roncalli showed no desire to meet Sister Lucy, and he did not make a pilgrimage to the Coimbra Carmel before returning to Venice.
After the death of Pius XII, the Patriarch of Venice was elected pope by the conclave on October 28, 1958, and he chose the name of John XXIII.
He read the Third Secret ten months later, in August 1959. We will not go back over all the circumstances of this event, as these can be found in the third volume of The Whole Truth about Fatima. Nevertheless, we can add one detail concerning the Pope’s reaction. In 1997, his former secretary, Msgr. Loris Capovilla, revealed for the first time the contents of the note that John XXIII dictated to him after he had read the Secret, a note which was then placed in the envelope along with the precious document.
«John XXIII said to me: “Write.” And I wrote what he dictated: “The Holy Father received this document from the hands of Msgr. Philippe. He decided to read it on Friday, in the presence of his confessor. Having noted the presence of obscure idioms, he summoned Msgr. Tavares, who translated. He had his closest collaborators read it also. Finally, he decided to put it back in the envelope, saying: “I pass no judgement. Silence in the face of what might be a manifestation of the divine or might not be”.22»
These last two sentences reveal John XXIII’s hesitation when he discovered the Secret’s contents. He had mixed feelings, doubted the authenticity of these visions, and remained in a state of uncertainty.
When one knows the true personality of this Pontiff, one is less surprised that he displayed such reserve towards the Secret, despite the extraordinary graces received three years earlier during his pilgrimage to Fatima. As a young cleric, he had had close ties to members of the liberal party which had been established itself in the Church under the pontificate of Leo XIII, in reaction to the doctrinal firmness and anti-revolutionary directives of Pius IX. He was the protégé of one of Cardinal Rampolla’s friends, Msgr. Radini Tadeschi, the Bishop of Bergamo, and he was discovered and denounced in Rome as a modernist professor23.
Everything seems to prove that the thoughts and feelings of Don Roncalli were not in accord with the spirit and teachings of Saint Pius X24.
Under the pontificate of Pius XII, he showed himself reserved regarding the development of Marian devotion. He feared that the exaltation of the mission and privileges of the Immaculate would harm the cause of ecumenism. Asked to sign a petition for the institution of a new feast, that of the Queenship of Mary, he replied on April 22, 1954:
«I beg you to forgive my silence which expresses my uncertainty and my fear that such a feast might prejudice the great work already undertaken towards restoring the unity of the Catholic Church in the world. Before dying, Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother.” That is enough for the faith and the liturgy. All the rest may be – and no doubt is for the most part – edifying and touching for devout and pious souls; but for many others far more numerous, including even those well disposed to the Catholic Church, it would be merely irritating and – as the modern phrase goes – counterproductive.25»
Further on we will quote one of his cautions against “excesses of devotion”26.
It is highly instructive to analyse the talk he gave to the pilgrims at the Cova da Iria on May 13, 1956, even before he had read the Third Secret. Admittedly, he did speak of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but only in neglecting Heaven’s great requests, namely the reparatory devotion of the First Saturdays and the consecration of Russia. Furthermore, he passed over in silence the prophecies, warnings and threatened chastisements contained in the first two parts of the Secret27. On the other hand, he said he saw in the apparitions of 1916, in the «gentle words» of the Angel of Portugal, a kind of announcement of «something unusual and divine, like the wind that heralds a new Pentecost, the full significance of which we are now beginning to appreciate as well as the mysterious riches of its heavenly fragrance»28.
Trusting his own so-called personal inspirations, he saw a “new Pentecost” arriving, whose first fruits would be a Reform of the Church.
His optimistic forecasts were in almost word-for-word opposition to the Third Secret’s prophetic tableau. Before entering the conclave, on October 23, 1958, he wrote to the Bishop of Bergamo:
«My soul finds comfort in the confidence that a new Pentecost can blow through the Church, renewing its head, leading to a new ordering of the ecclesiastical body and bringing fresh vigour in progress towards the victory of truth, goodness and peace.29»
Elected to the throne of Peter, he linked the coming of this “new Pentecost” to his council, Vatican Council II, whose gathering he suddenly announced on January 25, 1959. We will return to this.
In November 1959, three months after having read the Secret and decided not to publish it, he wrote in his collection of spiritual notes, which he had himself called Journal of a Soul:
«Above all, I am grateful to the Lord for the temperament he has given me, which has preserved me from anxiety and needless alarms. I feel that I am in a state of obedience in all things and I note that this disposition, “in the big things as in the little”, confers on my littleness a strength of daring simplicity which, being wholly evangelical, demands and wins a universal respect; and this is a source of edification to many.30»
John XXIII’s fanciful forecasts, connected with his humanist optimism and Pentecostal illuminism, in short, to «his heresies»31, which our Father Superior, the Abbé de Nantes, fully exposed in a detailed analysis of his Opening Speech to the Council, made him indifferent, nay even hostile, to the Fatima revelations.
According to Father Joaquin Alonso, after he had read the Third Secret, John XXIII is supposed to have said: «This does not concern the years of my pontificate.32» If this is so, he failed to see the connection between the bloody persecutions being organised in every communist country and the visions of the Secret. We may also wonder whether the Pope perceived the tragic consequences of these diabolical assaults on Christendom. He would sometimes speak about them with a disconcerting optimism. Take this, for example, at the general audience of November 14, 1962:
«What does the Council set out to do if not to strengthen and spread holiness in the Church […]? Taken together, these generous proposals and noble objectives confirm that our century is not such a disappointment as is too often said, as though every good remained a prerogative of the past. No, today also, and even with greater enthusiasm one might say, the heralds of light are aware that their lives and deeds must spread the radiance of their Mother the Church. Certainly, as was the case in every era, persecutions, often grave and cruel, are not lacking. But, in reality, these refine the noble character of the children of God, and bear witness to the presence of the Christian people whom it is impossible to suppress.33»
John XXIII minimised the scale and violence of the attacks suffered by the Catholic Church because he intended to pursue, as we shall soon see, a new policy, that of an open relationship with the Soviet leaders.
As for the Third Secret of Fatima, he never spoke about it in public, and he took great affront if anyone mentioned it to him, or if they questioned him on the subject. One day, the future Cardinal Oddi expressed surprise that it had not been disclosed in 1960. John XXIII replied: «Don’t talk to me about that.» The prelate insisted nonetheless: «If you wish, I will say no more on the matter, but I cannot prevent people talking about it. I myself must have given around a hundred sermons announcing the revelation.» The Pope replied: «I told you not to talk to me about that.34»
CARDINAL OTTAVIANI ECHOES THE THIRD SECRET.
Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, Secretary of the Holy Office, read the Third Secret after John XXIII, in the summer or autumn of 1959. Highly disturbed, as Pius XII had been, at the persecutions being suffered by the Church, this prelate understood the contemporary relevance of the Secret, which visibly inspired his speech of January 7, 196035. Cardinal Ottaviani declared himself seized with fear at the persecutions that were devastating Christendom, and he denounced the compromises made by Western heads of State towards Nikita Khrushchev. His warning was aimed directly at the President of the Italian Republic, Giovanni Gronchi, who was on the point of making an official visit to Moscow. Furthermore, Khrushchev was preparing to be received in France by General de Gaulle. Now Cardinal Ottaviani saw in these Christians who were colluding with their brothers’ assassins, dead members of the Mystical Body. We may therefore think that he identified them with the «corpses» seen in the Third Secret, «corpses» which strewed «the large city half in ruins».
Published on January 8, 1960 in Il quotidiano under the title “Jesus in agony, and they collude with the executioners”, this speech caused something of a stir, at least in the traditionalist press. Let us mention that our Father Superior, then parish priest of Villemaur, commented on it to his parishioners and that, later on, he would quote a passage from it in a debate with Father Wenger on the subject of General de Gaulle’s trip to Moscow36.
Here are some significant extracts from the speech given by the prelate during a Mass celebrated for the intentions of the Church of silence, in the presence of Hungarian exiles, in the Borghese Chapel of Saint Mary Major:
«No one loves or desires peace more than you, you who still feel the harrowing effects of war, as well as the sorrows of exile to which foreign domination has condemned you.
«As long as it is possible for Cain to massacre Abel without anyone noticing; as long as entire nations can be held in slavery without anyone coming to the defence of the oppressed; as long as the bloodletting continues, three years after the Hungarian revolt, with the condemnation to death of students, peasants and workers guilty of having loved a freedom now stamped out by foreign tanks, without the world showing any horror at so great a crime… as long as such things persist, then it is impossible to speak of a true peace, but only of an acquiescence and coexistence with the butcher who remains untroubled by anyone.
«It was not enough for Cain to kill his brother Abel. To fratricide he added indifference and irony: “Num custos fratris mei sum? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gn 4:9)
«The quarrel between the two brothers has been perpetuated, as we know, right up to our own days. On the one hand, there is the murdered Abel, between his father and mother in tears; on the other, Cain, the murderer, who pours contempt on his victim and finds a thousand pretexts to excuse himself. He has committed murder, but, as compensation, he is building the city.
«And so we see that for decades now, in the name of so-called humanitarian and social theories, there has been inaugurated in the world a shameless system of government by those who, once having seized power – I dare not say by what means – and grabbed all the levers of control, proceed to deport, imprison, massacre, and, in a word, create a desert.
«The times of Tamerlane have made an historic return. In the middle of the twentieth century, we have had to weep over genocides, mass deportations, murders like that of the Katyn graves, and massacres like those in Budapest37.
«But there is more. We no longer find it repugnant to offer the hand to the new antichrists. On the contrary, we fight about who will be the first to shake hands and exchange pleasant smiles with them.
«The frequency and intensity of large-scale crime has, alas, blunted Christian sensibilities even amongst Christians, not simply as men, but as Christians. They no longer react, they are no longer disturbed. How can they feel themselves Christians, if they are insensible to the wounds inflicted on Christianity? A wounded arm that no longer feels pain is a dead arm. In the same way, a Christian who no longer feels the effects of anti-Christianity has ceased to share in the life of the Mystical Body.
«Today we shudder to think of all those Christians who are imprisoned with their pastors. We are not dealing here with matters that are vague, trivial or unsubstantiated. No! We have a Cardinal Primate of Hungary who is imprisoned and continues to share with his people the weight of the Cross borne by a whole country. We have a Cardinal Stepinac, under strictly enforced house-arrest. We have a great archbishop, the Archbishop of Prague, who has neither been judged nor condemned, but who has been made to disappear: for eleven years we have had no information about him, we have not heard his voice and no one has received a letter from him. We have bishops in prison or living in dread, numerous members of the faithful who can no longer celebrate Christmas… and all this in an immense stretch of the world, with the full knowledge of everyone, under the light of the sun38.
«One would think it one’s duty to take part in a protest as loud as the roaring ocean, in an uprising of all humanity, in a clamour of reprobation, like the cry of an irrepressible lamentation. Not a bit of it…
«The Mystical Body of Christ makes of every Christian a living cell of Christ here below. This Body, which is the Church, has never received such blows, such wounds. Now, if my finger is in pain, my whole body suffers. If the Church suffers in so many of its torn members, is it possible that the other members should not suffer? And if they do not suffer, what does that mean? That they are dead, morally dead.
«One may be the most highly placed person in the social hierarchy and still be dead. One may do anything except live in this state of insensibility. For life is verified by feeling and pain, by the sensitivity with which one reacts to injury, by the promptness and power of the reaction. When we rot and decompose, we no longer react.
«Confronted with one who murders Christians, confronted with one who, not content with denying Him, insults God and cruelly persecutes His servants and His children, can a Christian react with smiles and flattery? Can a Christian opt for alliances with the auxiliaries and allies of those who support and prepare the future of such an anti-Christian reign of terror, in countries that are still free? Can we consider ourselves to be compensated by some sort of détente, when this détente does not first exist in a feeling of humanity – in its most elementary sense of a respect for consciences and, in our case, for the faith – or in any compassion for the face of Christ once more covered in spittle, crowned with thorns and slapped? Can we hold out the hand to one who acts in this way? “If only I had been there with my Franks!” said Clovis when he heard the account of Christ’s Passion. But Christ’s Passion continues. Another Frenchman wrote, in an immortal page: “Jesus is in agony; and you collude with His executioners!”
«But at the foot of the Cross stands a mother, Mary. Through the tears She shed as She shared in the sufferings of Her Son, through the tears with which She begged the conversion and forgiveness of the executioners, and through the bitter anguish which rent Her Heart when She saw Jesus’ first Apostles and disciples pursued, manhandled and persecuted, may She soon obtain what we all await from Her, that for which we hail Her as our hope and our desire.
«O Mary! make haste to touch the hearts of the powerful, inspire in our rulers generous resolutions, and let there thus be granted to the peoples what they await with a hunger and thirst for justice, with the aspiration proper to those who feel themselves to be brothers in Christ. Should Thy succour delay, o Mary, there would no longer be peace for the world, there would be disaster.39»
It was the vision of the Third Secret that probably encouraged Cardinal Ottaviani to publish this poignant warning, which ended on a plea to the Virgin Mary our Mother: Her all-powerful intercession appeared to him to be the one final recourse for obtaining the peace of the world and the deliverance of the persecuted. However, it is regrettable that he failed to express his supplication in accordance with the spirit of the Fatima message, which teaches us that Our Lord God has assigned peace to the care of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The prelate made no allusion to this.
Faithful to the teaching and directives of Pius XII40, Cardinal Ottaviani energetically opposed any conciliation with the communists, but perhaps he did not clearly discern the very principle of the error committed by progressivist Christians who were betraying their brothers.
It is notable that, at the same time, the Abbé de Nantes was presenting an equally lucid appraisal of the tragic situation of the Church and Christendom, developing themes that were present in the visions of the Secret, even though he had no knowledge of them. But, unlike Cardinal Ottaviani, he saw how “the errors of Russia” were spreading into the very heart of the Church, and he went back to the source of the evil, namely the «mental perversion of progressivism».
Here are some extracts from his Letter to my Friends of January 1, 1960.
THE ABBÉ DE NANTES’ REPORT: THE MENTAL PERVERSION OF PROGRESSIVISM.
«Jealousy and discord have destroyed great cities and brought down powerful nations.41»
«I wanted to write and send you my good wishes for the year of grace 1960, year one of the expansion of world communism if we are to believe the declarations of its leader, and also the year of the revelation of the last secret of Fatima.»
A revelation awaited expectantly, with confidence and fervour, by our Father Superior, as it was by all Fatima devotees, seeing that the deadline for the disclosure of the Secret had arrived.
«I have delayed this letter, so heavy was it with my fears, and yet at the same time charged with a great hope. In announcing that blood would flow this year, the blood of soldiers, the blood of martyrs, I had a sense that it would not be long before these unhappy forecasts were tragically confirmed. Where would this blood flow? in what circumstances and why? It was these questions that I wanted to answer in order to fortify your souls and to enlighten them in Truth.
«What is the first thing that terrifies us? It is obviously persecuting communism, the red stain of which is spreading over the world map and which, emboldened by its success, is casting its tentacles over a new continent which the West appears to be abandoning to it, Africa... whence it will pounce on Europe and head towards Mexico, where it will already find its emissaries come from the other side of the world. It has been said time and time again that its military force alone could not explain such an expansion; it is its truly diabolical power of seduction that enables it to seize immense regions of the earth without firing a shot. On one hand, the “under-developed” peoples allow themselves to be inebriated by this subversive dialectic which the West itself invented, and, on the other, progressivism and its multiple ideological strands even here consider communism not as an enemy of our civilization and religion, but as a sister movement. I will explain why at some length, this winter.
«An event near at hand marks this complicity: Khrushchev’s trip to France. This welcome, which is senseless and odious, has left the clergy and the country’s elite almost indifferent. So, unless America makes some extraordinary blunders, there will not be an all-out war this year, but what we will see is communist political and military imperialism feverishly exploiting its ideological conquests: Africa will be eaten. This could happen without bloodshed or combat, like a harvest of ripe fruit.
«It is before the coming of communism that blood will flow, and it will occur in the heart of a Christendom under siege, in the outbreaks of hatred springing from its divisions. Let me explain.
«Communist imperialism, continuing and extending the doctrines of 1789, uses a highly seductive idea to entice peaceful peoples into its war, that of independence. With this it flatters the people in their supreme vice, pride. They in their turn pronounce those diabolical words: “I will not serve!” From one region of the earth to the next, these words go their way, arousing hatred and awakening the most savage instincts; each demands and wants to win at any price and at a single stroke his Freedom and the enjoyment of all earthly goods. The old political order is condemned, appetites are unchained, and murder is the knowing watchword that is to make the movement of the revolution irreversible. The rivers of blood issuing from these “wars of national liberation” are transformed into raging torrents, there being no wise power left to arrest them.
«If all Christians, all civilized people, viewed this evil with the same eyes and a real determination, there is no doubt that this decomposition of the world and of the great Christian empires would be rapidly arrested without great cost. The drama is that such events are differently interpreted, even within the Church herself, and that one powerful faction holds that such a development is just and providential. If blood flows in 1960, it will be among Christians, among Frenchmen; even the knife of the Moslem or communist assassin will be directed by the hand and brain of those of our race and religion. For it is a generally accepted thesis, certainly one regurgitated by our “fine press”, that this abandonment of our colonial empires is but a normal return to an order that is more humane and more just. It is supposed to be a purely political change, arising from the universal class struggle, which only the “nationalism” or “colonialism” of “extremists”, that is to say, the selfish interest and proud passion of the French and other colonisers, is preventing from being effected in a peaceful and generous manner. De Gaulle, following Messrs. Faure, Mollet and Mendès, seeks to realise this political abandonment by desensitizing and paralysing French nationalism; in this he is followed by the blind masses and spurred on by every faction of the revolutionary left...
«Judging from their whole attitude and a thousand all too clear declarations, the missionaries, following the example of an immense section, alas, of the Catholic clergy, are simply seeking to retire from the game, if one can call it such. They would prefer to turn a blind eye to what is going on, for in Kairouan and Douala it is not so easy as it is in Paris to view this immense revolution and frenzy as nothing but a change to the political order, a change in which terrorism and xenophobic fanaticism are merely insignificant accidents. In this general outlook of the Catholic elite we note firstly this mental perversion of progressivism, which leads them to see in these insurrections wherein Christians, Moslems, pagans and communists are all mixed together, a new kind of biblical, evangelical march of Humanity towards the Promised Land and the City of God, and secondly a certain ingenuousness, bordering on the most craven blindness, in that they imagine they are earning the Church the privilege of her full liberty in these new worlds!
«And that is why, while French Christians are having their throats cut, the rest of their brothers – at least the vocal and activist “elites” –, far from helping them, are on one hand supporting the assassins, and on the other washing their hands and swearing that the Church has no part in these temporal conflicts. So if God should not see fit to reverse this wind blowing against us, the civil war instituted under this myth of Liberation will precipitate the Christian world into total ruin.
«The missionaries encouraged Cameroonian independence; now, behold, they are attacked and killed because pride, which is running the show, cannot attack the terrestrial order without hating the supernatural causes of that order. The departure of the colonists and the soldiers signals the inevitable martyrdom of the missionaries, unless they in their turn, returning to a just appreciation of things, take up firearms against their adversaries, the Moslem and communist Bamilekes, in order to save their small flock. Yet they are at great risk of being swept away along with the magnificent regions of Christendom which they founded. Sow the great wind of pride and the storm of hatred is sure to follow.42»
One year later, the Abbé de Nantes could see that his gloomy prognosis had, alas, been realised:
«The year 1960 was, as I warned you last January, disastrous for France, for the West and for the Church. Khrushchev had announced that it would be year one of the communist expansion, and God permitted this widespread advance of Satan’s armies. The predictions of Fatima have not been revealed; everything indicates that it is still the first of the two branches of the alternative that prevails: the chastisement of mankind and in particular of the Christian peoples for their mental depravity and moral laxity. The prayers of the saints and those of little children have not yet stayed the avenging arm of Divine Justice and we are being more and more clearly punished, as the hymn says, “in manu iniquititatis nostrae, by the very hand of our crimes”.43»
In his Letter to my Friends of January 1, 1962, the Abbé de Nantes returned to the fundamental, ideological cause of the «accelerated expansion of the communist revolution»:
«More than the planes and the tanks, what gave cover to the Viets’ advance on Laos and in the Plain of Jars, what protects the fellaghas in the jebels and in our outer cities, what gives hope to those in our prisons, are the great myths of the modern era which they cite as their inspiration and which we profess to revere. A word is enough. Colonisation, that human phenomenon par excellence, which may perhaps change its form but will never disappear, stands condemned in people’s minds (at the very moment when it enjoys success and commands recognition) simply because the propaganda has added a pejorative ‘ism’ to it… and at once fortune switches sides! But Independence is a goddess to whom everything must be sacrificed!»
When the Abbé de Nantes wrote this Letter, General de Gaulle’s policies had put the departments of Algeria to fire and the sword. In those tragic hours, Catholics who were animated by a true charity, defenders of French Algeria, were pursued, hunted down, imprisoned and murdered by the Gaullist government’s secret police.
«Blood is flowing, not only that of remote victims ignorant of the drama, but that of noble-minded men who have put Country, Church and the true faith before revolutionary ideas. This blood witnesses to and denounces the hypocrisy or the treason. No longer is there any room for quiet compromise, for airy-fairy arguments in favour of the adversary. We must choose between France and the so-called direction of history, between Church and Revolution. Equivocation results in the blood of witnesses whose throats are cut by the very people entrusted with defending them […].
«Tell yourself that never, in the whole history of two thousand years of Catholicism, has anyone ever witnessed a suicide of an entire people that is so cruel, so systematic and so implacable.
«O Holy Mother Church, when will you rise and take in hand the defence of your unhappy children? When will you go with them to prison and to death? When will the martyrs find you alongside them, in their midst, proudly sharing their sufferings, instead of constantly seeing you in the company of the oppressors?44»
Such appeals hardly met with a favourable response from the Church’s senior hierarchy. The Roman prelates were going along with the new orientations that John XXIII had given his pontificate by neglecting Our Lady of Fatima’s prophetic warnings, even though they were being fulfilled to the letter. The realistic analyses of the situation in the Church and the world, which his staff in the Secretariat of State would communicate to him, proved this indubitably.
JOHN XXIII COMMITS THE CHURCH TO OSTPOLITIK.
In the first years of John XXIII’s pontificate, Cardinal Domenico Tardini, the Secretary of State, a prelate of considerable theological learning and a self-declared opponent of communism, was an obstacle to the Vatican’s new commitment to a policy of open relations with the East. But after his death on July 31, 1961, John XXIII was able to pursue a global policy that was in line with his own personal views.
On August 10, 1961, on the first day of the “retreat preparing for his eightieth birthday”, the Pope wrote in his Journal of a Soul:
«When, on October 28, 1958, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church chose me to assume the supreme responsibility of ruling the universal flock of Christ Jesus, at the age of seventy-seven, there was a widespread conviction that I would be a transitional Pope. Instead of that, here I am on the eve of my fourth year in the papacy, and with the prospect of a substantial programme to set forth before the whole world which is watching and waiting.45»
One month later, in the wake of the Berlin crisis and the construction of the wall, on September 10, 1961, John XXIII broadcast an appeal for “peace in the world”. The Pope preached disarmament and thus gave support to the declaration of the “non-aligned” countries led by Tito, Nehru, Nasser and Bourguiba. In Moscow, Khrushchev made several highly laudatory references to his appeal which were published in Moscow’s two chief newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia.
On November 25, 1961, John XXIII celebrated his eightieth birthday. At 1:30 pm, his Secretary of State, Cardinal Cicognani, brought him a message from the Soviet ambassador to the Quirinal, handed that very day to the Nuncio, Msgr. Grano: «Following the instructions I have received from Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, I ask you to communicate to His Holiness John XXIII, on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, his congratulations and his sincere good wishes for his good health and for success in his noble aspiration of contributing to the strengthening and consolidation of peace on earth as well as to the solution of international problems by means of open negotiations.46»
John XXIII read the message immediately: «This is excellent news», he said to Cardinal Cicognani. «We must reply. We will find the appropriate manner. It is certainly a good sign to be interpreted positively: a caress is always better than a slap, no?47» That evening the Pope confided to his private secretary, Loris Capovilla: «Something is afoot in the world. The Lord is using the humble instrument that I am to move history forward. Today we received a sign from Divine Providence.48»
On Monday, November 27, John XXIII sent the Soviet embassy to the Italian government a message for Khrushchev: «H.H. Pope John XXIII expresses his gratitude for the good wishes and, for his part, sends the whole Russian people his cordial wishes for the development and consolidation of universal peace thanks to a happy understanding of human brotherhood. For this intention he offers his fervent prayers.»
On December 17, the good wishes of the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR and the thanks of the Pope were published in L’Osservatore Romano. It is clear that John XXIII was keen for these message to appear to the world as «a sign from Providence»: the indisputable sign of the good dispositions of Khrushchev who, as was then believed, had taken the initiative in this gesture. The Bolshevik bear was apparently being tamed, subdued… Later on, historians would discover that Pope John XXIII, eager to make contact with the masters of the Kremlin, had himself asked Khrushchev, through Palmiro Togliatti, the Secretary of the Italian Communist Party, to send him these good wishes for his eightieth birthday49.
John XXIII, blind to Moscow’s machiavellian games, filled public opinion with fanciful hopes of world peace and reconciliation. By his declarations, particularly by his speech for Christmas 6150 and his appeal for talks during the Cuban crisis51, he accredited the so-called international policy of “peaceful coexistence” and détente with the Bolsheviks, a policy whose objective was to lull to sleep and dupe the West.
The Cuban crisis, in mid-October 1962, came at a time when the Pope could easily have accomplished, had he wanted to, the collegial consecration of Russia: bishops from the whole world had just arrived in Rome in vast numbers for the first session of Vatican II.
Though well-informed on the conflict and the danger of world war, Pope John XXIII does not seem to have connected this crisis with the prophecies and visions of the Secret of Fatima. Yet, on October 24, the day before he made his appeal for negotiations to settle the crisis, he gave a short talk to a Portuguese group on pilgrimage in Rome, in which he recalled his visit to Fatima on May 13, 1956 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Portugal’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary52. But he made no mention of Our Lady’s requests to which the divine gift of peace was tied. The Pope’s mind was taken up at the time by different ideas and different plans for “converting” Russia and promoting peace.
In December 1962, through the agency of the progressive American journalist, Norman Cousins, Nikita Khrushchev sent the Pope this short note: «On the occasion of the holy season of Christmas, I beg you to accept the good wishes and felicitations of one who wishes you good health and strength in your constant efforts for the peace, happiness and prosperity of all humanity. Signed, Nikita Khrushchev.»
After reading this message, John XXIII, conversing with Norman Cousins, declared: «We must talk to the Russians. We must always try to address the goodness that lies in people. Nothing is lost in the attempt. Everything may be lost if men do not find a way to work together to save peace. I am not afraid to talk to anyone at all about peace on earth. If Mr. Khrushchev were sitting where you are at this moment, I do not believe I would feel uneasy talking to him.53» John XXIII gave a medal to Cousins, asking him to pass it on to Khrushchev with his blessing54. If we may believe the historian Paul Dreyfus, the man who was both First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR and President of the Council of Ministers would often show this medal to senior members of the party when they visited him in his office in Moscow55.
Without delay, John XXIII composed his reply to Khrushchev: «Many thanks for the amiable exchange of greetings. In exchange we send you back with all our heart words that come from On High: “Peace on earth to men of good will!” We bring to your attention two recent Christmas documents56 calling for the consolidation of a just peace between peoples. May the good Lord hear and respond to the ardour and sincerity of our efforts and prayers. Fiat pax in virtute tua, Domine, et abundantia in turribus tuis. All our best wishes for the prosperity of the Russian people and for all the peoples of the world.57»
The Secretary of State found this message too warm. But John XXIII was inflexible and would not change a line.
Deceived by the Prince of this world, the Pope sought to convince himself that his overtures towards Khrushchev and his contacts with the Soviets were the providential means for obtaining or at least paving the way for Russia’s conversion. On December 26, 1962, he wrote in his private notes: «My mind remains interested in the Lord’s mysterious operations at this time. Might not this Nikita Khrushchev be about to surprise us perchance? Tonight, after having meditated a great deal and read the introduction to the grammar of the Russian language by Ettore Lo Gatto, which Msgr. Capovilla procured for me yesterday, the feast of Christmas, I got up and, kneeling before my crucifix, I consecrated my life to the Lord in the utmost sacrifice of my whole being, in regard to what He wanted of me for His great enterprise of Russia’s conversion to the Catholic Church. I repeated this intention at Holy Mass which was celebrated in the same spirit.58»
Alas, John XXIII had not the slightest intention of accomplishing what Our Lord expected of him. He refused to comply with the divine wishes revealed at Fatima. Just like Pius XI before him, he preferred to follow his own so-called diplomacy rather than call upon the all-powerful mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary through a solemn act of reparation and of consecration of Russia.
Yet, at this time, Nikita Khrushchev was intensifying the atheist propaganda
in the Soviet Union and reinforcing the persecutions. The very progressive Peter Hebblethwaite
admits that in «the closing down of churches [thirteen thousand
churches!] and contemptuous treatment of Christians, the later Khrushchev years were
more authoritarian than the post-war Stalin period»59. All
of which the Pope
was kept advised of through the Secretariat of State’s press review…
JOHN XXIII’S PACIFIST AND INTERNATIONALIST UTOPIA.
On March 1, 1963, the Council of the Balzan Foundation unanimously decided to award John XXIII the “prize for peace”. By their favourable votes, the four USSR representatives on the Council were expressing, as one of them explained, the approval of Mr. Khrushchev «who was highly appreciative of the Pope’s efforts on behalf of the cause of peace between peoples»60. The Pope accepted this Balzan prize, just after he had been informed on February 28 that Alexis Adzhubei, visiting Rome at the time, wished to meet him. Alexis Adzhubei was Khrushchev’s son-in-law and the director of Izvestia, Moscow’s second largest daily newspaper. Everything had been well calculated by the Soviets: the prize was awarded just after the request for an audience had been made. So John XXIII replied favourably to Adzhubei, rejecting Cardinal Ottaviani’s objections and ignoring the analyses and views published in the press review compiled by the Secretariat of State.
On March 1, the Pope could have read the following in this review: «The Soviet policy towards the Vatican probably aims at the neutralization of the Catholic Church. Who could forget the grave persecutions to which the Church has been exposed since the Bolshevik revolution? Who could define as a misunderstanding, conditioned by historical circumstances, that which is an openly declared objective: to eradicate Christianity and even all religion? The Ukrainian Metropolitan61 who has arrived in Rome is but the survivor of an innumerable army which has been killed. The methods have changed: mass executions, noisy trials, and disappearances at night or under mysterious circumstances, are no longer the order of the day. However, the ideological goal remains unchanged, as does the monopoly of atheist propaganda.62»
The following day, the press review prepared by the Secretary of State reported that if Khrushchev no longer wanted to be considered the sworn enemy of the Holy See, he did so «for reasons of economics, politics and propaganda»: «grappling with numerous difficulties, it was in his interests to obtain a momentary truce with a spiritual power of such consequence»63.
On March 7, Alexis Adzhubei, who on the day before at a Roman dinner had declared himself «an absolute atheist»64, was at the Vatican among journalists who were listening to John XXIII discoursing on the active neutrality of the Church, «the total supranational neutrality of the Church and of her visible head»65. At the close of this meeting, in the presence of an interpreter, Fr. Koulic, the Pope received Alexis Adzhubei and his wife in his private library. After this interview, John XXIII confided to his secretary: «It may be an illusion, but it may also be that it is a mysterious thread offered me by Providence. In that case, I do not have the right to snap it.66»
Moscow had thus won a striking victory. «The Western communist newspapers, especially in Italy», states Mourin, «exploited to the full and for their own private ends, the audience granted to Adzhubei as well as the Pope’s speech on the Church’s neutrality, interpreting the latter as giving Catholics a free political choice, contrary to the instructions of the episcopate. On the opposite side, the right wing press denounced the Soviet manoeuvre intended to achieve the West’s “psychological disarmament”, while the peoples subject to communist regimes would continue to live under the same strain.67»
One month later, when he published his encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII sent Khrushchev a copy translated into Russian68. In Moscow, on April 21, during a conversation with the correspondent of the Milanese daily newspaper Il Giorno, the Soviet president manifested his pleasure:
«We applaud the stance Pope John XXIII has taken on behalf of peace… I am no theologian, but as far as I can remember, according to the Gospel, Jesus Christ preached peace and not war. All those who consider themselves believers should therefore be aware of the fact that they should not be building atomic bombs, missiles, guns and other weapons…69» Izvestia announced that by «intervening in the political sphere, the Pope gave proof of a certain tolerance towards atheistic communists»70. So was the Milanese newspaper Corriere d’informazione right to give Pacem in Terris this significant title: Falcem in Terris (the sickle on earth)71? What was the novelty in John XXIII’s teaching?
The Abbé de Nantes expounded and publicly criticised this novelty in his Letter to my Friends of April 28, 1963. There he compared two documents: the Pope’s encyclical and the declaration made by Colonel Bastien-Thiry before his judges.
In Pacem in Terris, the Pope took no account of Christendom, he failed to examine the dangers that threatened it, he was not in the least concerned about saving its historic communities, but he did give official recognition to the United Nations’ “charter of human rights”, and he advocated a world community that was free, equal and fraternal; this ideal, future society was to be built on the good will of all men.
«We do not consent», wrote the Abbé de Nantes, «to exchange these vital goods, these moral virtues, this honourable legacy of our fathers, in a word this Country from which we draw our life, for a new World, the dream of which we are expected to share with good communists and men of all religions, races and nations, suddenly reconciled and united in the search for the same universal common good. Let them go on hoping, fine! Let them go on working toward this end, all well and good, provided they do not give up what they have for a will-o’-the-wisp, in other words, provided that they do not betray the country, the civilisation and the religion that we already possess in an attempt to build with our enemies of yesteryear a better world, of which as yet we know neither its viability nor whether it be the most deadly illusion with which the Enemy has dazzled our eyes in order to destroy us.
«It seems to me that, after the Tonkin experience and the Algerian experience, after the fatal illusions of the Cuban clergy and the desperate appeals from Goa or Katanga, we would be truly stupid and criminal to relax our love for Country and Church, to hastily forget the Decalogue and our age-old morals in order to fall for the utopia of a fraternal world which, for the last twenty years, has ensured the terrifying expansion of the communist empire, the most inhumane in history. No one will convince us or legitimately order us to substitute, in our hearts, an optimistic faith in the new world for the love of our country; no one will persuade us to disarm or to trust a Khrushchev-Kennedy world government, and still less to collaborate with communists or Islam. One should know, in both Rome and Paris, that there are acts of denial and treason that are impossible to a French Catholic. The blood of our martyrs proves this.72»
Now John XXIII affirmed that «it is a matter of justice always to distinguish between error and those who commit it». And he went so far as to practically lift the ban against collaborating with communists73.
In Italy, the consequences of the encyclical were immediate: the communists won an unmistakable success at the elections of April 28. Compared to the previous election, they won a million votes off Christian Democracy. But Pope John XXIII was not in the least troubled by this. Intoxicated by the unusual congratulations he was receiving, especially those from Khrushchev, he seemed to have convinced himself that the Church no longer had any enemies and that the hour of reconciliation had sounded. Had he not told the students at the Russicum that the peoples of Russia «at the present time needed to be understood and won over by proofs of fraternity, gentleness and peace»74?
In this way John XXIII adopted towards Russia, possessed by bolshevism, an attitude that was absolutely contrary to the wishes of the Virgin of Fatima. Instead of carrying out a solemn and public act of reparation for the impieties and crimes committed in that country, he looked benignly on the communist leaders and allowed himself to be seduced and cajoled by them.
Convinced that mankind had arrived at «the turning point of a new era»75, he extolled the subversive utopia of peaceful coexistence, thus disarming the Church and the West in the face of the world revolution which was not itself going to disarm. To trust in man, to hope in his goodness, to believe in the advent of a new, fraternal world where all men of all races and nations would finally be reconciled, such was his utopia which led him to expect the establishment of world peace by a «supranational or world power»76 and to court the friendship of Russia’s communist leaders.
«Historians», notes the Abbé de Nantes, «will distinguish the years 1958-1963 as those of incredible utopias and of the self-destruction of Christendom abandoning itself to the barbarians. The reign of John XXIII, the return of Charles de Gaulle, the passing of Kennedy… these years will be seen as a time of peaceful coexistence with world communism at the price of the abandonment of Asia and Africa, and, within Catholicism, as the time of an opening to the world concluded at the price of the blood and tears of persecuted Christians.77»
By the end of John XXIII’s reign, no one was still elaborating reasoned theories about the probable content of the Third Secret of Fatima. It was totally ignored. The Portuguese experts scarcely mentioned it.
Nevertheless, the Abbé de Nantes was convinced that the orientations given by John XXIII to his pontificate were not in keeping with Our Lady’s ultimate Secret. This can be seen in his correspondence with Pierre Lemaire regarding the encyclical Pacem in Terris. Here is one of his letters addressed to the traditionalist editor, a letter written in haste and off the cuff, in the month of April 1963:
«From Rome they write to tell me that a captatio benevolentiae is being attempted on Christ’s enemies. That is all very well. It is an act of diplomacy. But one does not create a doctrine with an act of diplomacy. To confuse these two things does not produce the intended result, but rather division and the ruin of one’s own world, and that plays into the hands of the enemy.»
One can but remark the perfect concordance with the vision of the Third Secret: «… a large city half in ruins…»
«Your explanations are ingenious», he continued, «but the remedial measures you advocate, albeit moderate and wise, will be like the honourable rallying cry of an Albert de Mun: they will not prevent the throng of the ambitious and deceitful spirits from going further and dragging everyone else into the farthest extremes.
«I have confidence in the Pope, in the Council78, but allow me, dear sir, to consider this encyclical as something terrible whose effects will continue to make themselves felt.
«I would love to see the Holy Father settle the debate by publishing the Secret of Fatima. Follow this idea up in your excellent review. It would be a real test.79»
It is now apparent that the visions of the Third Secret, describing the bloody persecutions organised by the enemies of Christ and His Church, constituted a repudiation of John XXIII’s personal politics and doctrinal novelties.
By suppressing the Third Secret, by forging relationships with the Kremlin’s communist rulers, by preaching a new morality for the advent of a free, equal and fraternal global community, founded on the good will of all men, and by claiming that Vatican Council II would give rise to a new «springtime» in the Church, Pope John XXIII seems to have been afflicted with that «miserable mental blindness» that Saint Pius X regarded as «the great and fitting punishment of God’s vengeance», which falls on those «who separate themselves from Him»80.
This chastisement appears to mark the fulfilment of the highly telling prophecy in Rianjo. In 1931, after Pope Pius XI’s first refusal to carry out the consecration of Russia, Our Lord had told Lucy, by means of an interior locution: «They refused to heed My request! Like the king of France, they will repent […]. They will follow him into misfortune.81»
Clearly the prophecy has been realised. The misfortune announced was the spiritual blindness of so many pastors who remained insensitive to Our Lady’s maternal voice.
However, this revelation in Rianjo does not lead us to despair, since it ends
on this truly comforting promise: «It will never be too late to have recourse to Jesus
and Mary.82» Words full of mercy and wonderful forbearance, which strengthen
the hope in our hearts in the final triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
announced on July 13, 1917, in the conclusion of the Secret.
(1) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 316.
(2) Ibid., p. 310-319.
(3) Précis d’histoire, vol. 5, p. 75, Fideliter, 1990.
(4) Lettre à mes amis no. 48, January 1, 1959.
(5) Supra, p. 24.
(6) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 88-89; 133-137.
(7) “Église des martyrs” in L’aide à l’Église en détresse, March 1981, p. 5-6.
(8) An unfortunate term, for «there can never be a Church of silence», remarks Didier Rance. «The persecuted Christians proclaimed their faith and paid the price for doing so; the most one can say is that here at home the Church was somewhat deaf and the blind, and wanted neither to see nor hear.» (Un siècle de témoins, Le Sarment, p. 49)
(9) Radio message for Christmas 1951.
(10) This scene of the death “of bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people” is capable of several explanations. Brother Bruno de Jésus, in his first commentary on this vision, wrote: «“And in the same way” means that they died like the Holy Father, killed by bullets and arrows.» (CRC no. 368, July 2000, p. 26) On this interpretation, they would be martyrs. We will see later on that Brother Bruno also interpreted this scene as the prophetic announcement of the wasting away of the Church. Cf. infra, chap. 13.
(11) Jean Lefeuvre, Les enfants dans la ville, Témoignage chrétien, Paris, 1956, p. 99-103.
(12) Quoted by Louis Dransard, Vu en Chine, Téqui, 1952, p. 72.
(13) Brother Peter Zhou Bangjiu O.S.B., Dawn Breaks in the East, Serenity, 1992, p. 57; “Une aube de résurrection se lève à l’Ést”, Résurrection, no. 7, July 2001, p. 21-30.
(14) André Jany, Les torturés de la Chine, Librairie Mignard, Paris, 1959, p. 21.
(15) D. C., 1956, col. 1244.
(16) Nouvelles de Chrétienté, no. 282, November 24, 1960.
(17) Nouvelles de Chrétienté, no. 350, May 17, 1962.
(18) Conference of November 20, 1961, D. C., 1962, col, 268.
(19) Lettre à mes amis no. 100, January 1, 1962, p. 1.
(20) M. C. de Bragança, Le lendemain de Fatima, Lisboa, 1958, p. 23-24.
(21) Ibid., p. 4.
(22) Quoted in CRC no. 341, December 1997, p. 7.
(23) Paul Dreyfus, Jean XXIII, Fayard, 1979, p. 53.
(24) Don Roncalli’s impressions and reactions during the pontifical audience of November 18, 1908 are highly revealing of his state of mind regarding Saint Pius X. Cf. Résurrection, no. 7, July 2001, p. 16.
(25) Quoted by Hebblethwaite, John XXIII, Pope of the Council, Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1985. p. 249.
(26) Infra, p. 123.
(27) He made no allusion to the vision of hell. Note moreover that, according to Giancarlo Zizola, John XXIII, throughout his pontificate, never used «the word hell once» (quoted by D. Chivot, La Croix, March 15, 1997).
(28) Osservatore Romano, Italian edition, September 16, 1959.
(29) Hebblethwaite, op. cit., p. 278.
(30) Jean XXIII, Journal de l’âme, Cerf, 1964, p. 460.
(31) “Les huit heresies de Jean XXIII, prophète de bonheur”, Résurrection, no. 7, July 2001, p. 13-20.
(32) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 372.
(33) D. C., 1962, col. 1572.
(34) Quoted by Stefano Paci, “Fatima et ses secrets”, in the journal 30 Days, French edition, April 1991, p. 25.
(35) It is worth remarking that later, in his conference of February 11, 1967 where he dealt with the Third Secret, Cardinal Ottaviani revealed, albeit without openly saying so, one of its themes: «Much has been said about the links between the Secret of Fatima and the fearsome and anguishing situation of the Church in numerous parts of the world where hell has unleashed its anger against everything that is holy and divine, and where the persecutor, even though he adopts the gloves of diplomacy and uses the honeyed language of peace, seeks to extend over the whole world the domination he already exercises over immense territories, sown with crosses, scaffolds and prisons sanctified by so many martyrs.» D. C., 1967, col. 545. Cf. Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 490.
(36) Lettre à mes amis no. 233, September 1966.
(37) After the invasion of East Poland by the Soviets, Stalin, in April 1940, gave orders for fifteen thousand imprisoned Polish officers to be «liquidated». When the Germans discovered their corpses, in February 1943, in the Katyn Forest, Stalin accused them of having committed the massacre, a massacre for which he was in fact the only one responsible (cf. Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 486, vol. 3, p. 89 and 111). In Budapest, in November 1956, Soviet tanks bloodily crushed the insurgents who wanted to free themselves from Stalin’s communism: twenty-five thousand Hungarians were killed in this tragedy.
(38) In a footnote, Cardinal Ottaviani gave a precise tally of the bishops imprisoned, deported or detained. He counted one hundred and fifty-one in total.
(39) D. C., 1960, col. 149-154.
(40) Up until the end of his papacy, Pius XII remained deaf to all the fallacious advances and solicitations of the master of the Kremlin. Cf. Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 291 sq.
(41) These words of Saint Clement’s, used by our Father as an epigraph, are taken from the Letter to the Corinthians, dated 96 A.D.
(42) Lettre à mes amis no. 63, January 1, 1960.
(43) Lettre à mes amis no. 81, January 1961.
(44) Lettre à mes amis no. 100, January 1, 1962.
(45) Journal de l’âme, p. 465-466.
(46) The Osservatore Romano published this message three weeks later, on December 17, 1961. In France, it was quoted by D. C., 1962, col. 28. Italy’s left wing newspapers gave it page one coverage; cf. Mourin, Le Vatican et l’Urss, Payot, 1965, p. 247.
(47) Giancarlo Zizola, L’utopie du pape Jean XXIII, Seuil, 1978, p. 136.
(49) P. Hebblethwaite, op. cit., p. 393.
(50) D. C., 1962, col. 2-8.
(51) Ibid., col. 1443-1444.
(52) D. C., 1962, col. 1445.
(53) Zizola, op. cit., p. 161.
(54) Ibid., p. 28; cf. Paul Dreyfus, Jean XXIII, Fayard, 1979, p. 364 and 382. According to Peter Hebblethwaite, p. 483, John XXIII gave Adzhubei some medals for Khrushchev on March 7, 1962.
(55) Dreyfus, op. cit., p. 382.
(56) The reference is to his radio talk for Christmas, given on December 22, and to his speech to the diplomatic corps. Extracts from his Christmas radio message were quoted shortly afterwards by Pravda. In them the Pope repeated his «appeal for peace and for the harmony of all peoples… We beg all governments», he said, «not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity. May they do everything in their power to preserve peace.» (D. C., 1963, col. 3)
(57) Zizola, op. cit., p. 162-163.
(58) Quoted by Antoine Wenger, Les trois Rome, Desclée de Brouwer, 1991, p. 120.
(59) Hebblethwaite, op. cit., p. 515, draws this conclusion from Medvedev’s book, Khrushchev, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1983.
(60) Quoted by Mourin, op. cit., p. 257.
(61) Msgr. Josef Slipyj.
(62) Quoted by Giancarlo Zizola, op. cit., p. 177.
(63) Ibid., p. 178.
(64) Ibid., p. 183.
(65) D. C., 1963, col. 419.
(66) Mourin, op. cit., p. 267.
(67) Ibid., p. 259.
(68) Zizola, op. cit., p. 208.
(69) D. C. 1963, col. 662.
(70) Dreyfus, op. cit., p. 384.
(71) Ibid., p. 383.
(72) Lettre à mes amis no. 139, 28 April 1963. Cf. Pour L’Église, volume 1, p. 344-348.
(73) A decree of the Holy Office, promulgated on July 1, 1949, forbade all collaboration with communism (Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 179-180). In April 1959, in an official note, the Holy Office recalled and clarified this decree (cf. Dreyfus, p. 292).
Now in Pacem in Terris, John XXIII claimed that «it is a matter of justice always to distinguish between error and those who commit it, even if it be a question of men whose false ideas and inadequate notions concern religion or morals. A man who has fallen into error does not cease to be a man; he retains his personal dignity, something that must always be taken into account.” Then John XXIII went on to apply this principle to communism and he concluded that it was essential to avoid confounding in the same condemnation the atheism of Marx and the party of Mr Khrushchev, or the Italian or French communist parties, which are “changing realities, in the process of evolving in the right direction” (cf. Pacem in Terris, nos. 156-158, D. C., 1963, col. 541-542). According to the Italian journalist Zizola, this passage was written, unlike the rest of the encyclical, not by Msgr. Pavan, but by John XXIII himself (Zizola, op. cit., p. 35).
(74) John XXIII, April 30, 1960. Quoted by Antoine Wenger, Vatican II, première session, Le Centurion, March 1963, p. 21.
(75) Bull of convocation of the Council, Humanae salutis, December 25, 1961, D. C., 1962, col. 98.
(76) Pacem in Terris, D. C., 1963, col. 537.
(77) Lettre à mes amis no. 161, 1 January 1964.
(78) Even after the victories of the progressives in the first session of Vatican II, our Father Superior did not question the benefit of convoking the Council, provided only that this assembly of the episcopal Body, meeting under the authority of the Pope, should exercise its power to teach in a solemn and extraordinary form, as was always the case in councils of times past.
(79) Private archives of the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Villemaur, Georges de Nantes collection.
(80) Allocution to the French bishops, February 29, 1906.
(81) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 344-345. Our Lord added: «They will do it, but it will be late.» (ibid.)