I remember this thing from first grade in 1958 and it was related to the apparition of Mary at Fatima. The thing of course was the secret letter containing prophecy and to be opened in 1960. Suspense, mystery and absoluteness were hallmarks of this then urban legend.
The legend no doubt twittered out from the convent of Lucia who wrote down these memories twenty five years after their happening. Twenty five years can change a bit of context or connotation. The four gospels were in general consensus written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. Of course Sister Lucia’s memory and voice were of one person and not many.
I have read this so-called third letter and released from the Vatican that got spun in different ways. Before I comment, here is the text of that so-called third “secret” prophecy:
"I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.
"After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: 'Penance, Penance, Penance!'. And we saw in an immense light that is God: 'something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White 'we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people 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."
No doubt Pius XII read this letter in private. He may have shit himself if he read it in early 1944 with the Nazi army camped outside the gates of the Vatican. He probably put it away to 1960 as recommended by Sister Lucia when it was supposed to be clearer in its meaning.
John XXIII became pope in 1958 and called for a Council within three months of his taking office, in early 1959. I think he read that “secret” letter and it may have helped in his decision to call a Council.
The difficult part of any “prophecy” is in who interprets and or who understands the prophecy.
Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, is one of a handful of people, mostly popes, who had access and read this message of Mary in Fatima before its official release in 2000.
The fringe conspiracy types put a blanket of doubt over the full disclosure by Ratzinger and or the Vatican in that this is a vision interpreted by Lucia and there are no words and or message in this third part of a whole message package.
John Paul the Great, superstar of the Vatican, took this vision to mean that he was the Bishop in White and that instead of being killed, he was saved from death by the divine intervention of Our Lady of Fatima. He was shot in 1981 in St. Peter’s Square and survived on the feast of that Lady of Fatima. Indeed, the big “M” on his coat of arms stood for Mary. He felt that his survival after Fatima Day was more than a coincidence but divine. He was strongly into the Mary cult wing of the RC church which has a tendency to be medieval or “traditional” on its religious perception of the church’s mission.
John Paul II takes the prophecy or vision of Sister Lucia literally. As a playboy superstar who was privately criticized for spending more time on planning with worldwide rockstar tours than spending time on the nitty gritty of politics and bureaucracy at the Vatican, John Paul thought it was “all about me” in the opinion of some who worked with him.
The one man who Pope Rockstar could always turn to in the nitty gritty bureaucrat role was Joseph Ratzinger, the present pope. Appointed as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith – formerly known was the Holy Office of the Inquisition - in 1981, Ratzinger was the hard nosed bureaucrat you came up against if you did not follow the party line in your role of layman, nun, priest or bishop.
Joe was John Paul’s bad cop in the good cop/bad cop routine of John Paul raking in the glory and PR success. Now in retrospect, perhaps the historic case or label might be good pope/bad pope in the scheme of things.
This past duty roster and his twenty four year methodology of being a power behind the throne until he himself is now in the superstar spotlight (a hard to follow act of that of JPII) perhaps first and foremost this past is the greatest obstacle to Benedict XVI’s public interface and the public’s perception of him as Bishop of Rome. That and Benedict’s perhaps personal and private thought that anybody can be a rockstar. Yeah right.
John Paul II had the same medieval, backward looking, not friendly user attitude toward the laity that Benedict XVI is now being trashed for. John Paul II could get away with it. John Paul II, if you read current history books, single handedly brought down the evil Soviet Empire. The west, masters of the liberal media, and pro-western, anti-Soviet propaganda, makes John Paul some sort of Nietzsche religious superman if such a combination could possibly occur.
In fact, I think that in fifty years, I believe that historians if they are able to be honest will paint the source of the present crumbling western culture on three people. They will be Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II. Not a true axis of evil so to speak but maybe a goofy “Gang of Three” who set the western civilization down a wrong road toward Global fascism and away from human liberation and freedom – a secular real time salvation.
Right now my personal advice to Benedict XVI is to stop trying to be a rockstar. Tear down the Rockstar Audience Theatre and go back to being a Pope in a photograph on the wall or a holy card in the missal of all good and faithful Catholics. Keep your mouth shut or at least have twenty bureaucrats review your remarks before releasing them to the public
Getting back to Sister’s Lucia’s prophecy/vision – John XXIII understood the meaning of the letter of Fatima all too well. Pope John understood the vision on a symbolic level while John Paul took it on a literal level.
On a symbolic level, if the White Bishop is the all too powerful head of a Catholics only Church, then the organization will die if the Papacy dies or is prevented from acting in an actual political or religious sense. The death of the RC church drags her sister churches down as well with her. The whole world becomes a truly darker place then. This is not unlike the so-called prophecy of the now defunct sister churches in Asia Minor in the Book of Revelation – a book, as prophecy, that I personally do not subscribe to.
The pope and or the Vatican is not the Church. The Church is not buildings – it is people – it is the People of God.
Fifty years from now I can picture not a dead Christian Church but a living, thriving, growing institution on all continents and being the Anglican, Lutheran, Roman, Orthodox Church for want of a better term for a United Christianity that I think is the Great (unrecognized) Legacy of John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council.