This year is the year of Fatima, because of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherds. An expert on this topic is the well known Vaticanist Marco Tosatti. A retired journalist for La Stampa, he is now in charge of the blog “Stilum Curiae” that gets around two million visits per year. He is the author of the book The unveiled secret (Chorabooks 2017).
Dr Tosatti, this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fatima’s apparitions. After 100 years, what are these apparitions are still telling us?
I think that they were a series of phenomena that were extraordinary for the Church of the 20th century and also for the 21st century. Why? Because the Blessed Virgin Mary has prophesied a series of ordeals that would have to happen inside and outside the Church and she gave us proof of the truth of these prophecies with that extraordinary miracle, the miracle of the sun, that was observed by thousands of people, including many non-believers who were there to make fun of the people who went there because they were called by the Virgin Mary. I think the message is still valid: there is a great world crisis and also a great crisis of the faith; this we can see daily: we can see it with the abandonment of Christianity in Europe, we can see it in the advancing secularism and individualism, we can see it in all the material and, most of all, spiritual ordeals that we have lived.
The 20th century was the century of the great genocides, the century where entire nations were destroyed. It is clear that is still a very strong message and, as was rightly affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, the message has still is validity even now, in our days.
Years ago you wrote a book – now republished and with new material – about Fatima and so I think you should be very interested in the news some months ago which questioned if the message of Fatima was revealed in its entirety or not. What is your opinion on this?
Look, as you mention I wrote a book about this Il segreto non svelato (The unveiled secret). There is no doubt that there are a series of things that do not make sense in the official version: for example the way in which the colloquial part of the Blessed Virgin Mary ended, where she says “the faith in Portugal will be always preserved etc. etc..” This seems to me so bizarre! Did the Virgin Mary really say “etc. etc.”? To believe that I need to hear it with my own ears.
There are discrepancies in the material shape of the letters, messages, notes. There are a series of elements that make us think that not everything was said, not everything was clarified, not everything was made public. It’s clear that we are talking of something that has happened in the past decades …. Meanwhile, even when the envelope of the message was shown, another envelope was not in fact shown on which Msgr Loris Capovilla, then secretary of (now Saint) john XXIII had written a series of things, before sealing it. So, there are definitely some strange things. Now, in all of this , the real problem – as I was told by Msgr Stanislao Dziwisz before he became a Cardinal – is to understand what the Virgin Mary had said and what was said by Sister Lucy.
Also Msgr Capovilla during an interview make us understand that there was a support letter to the message from Sister Lucy; so, there was something more. So the problem is to know what was revealed and what was not: I don’t think we will ever know. If there was something more, they will never reveal it.
One of the main characters of these apparitions – leaving aside the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the absolute protagonist – is Sister Lucy. What is your opinion about her?
She was a person of great quality, of great human depth. She was very obedient to the Church, a real woman of the Church. She had lived a very peculiar experience because, for what we know, her contacts with the supernatural were not only confined to the year 1917, but have continued after that time, for a long time and until relatively recent times. It would be very interesting to be able to know all the material she had and that was considered classified at her death, all her journals, because this will help us to have a more complete picture of this person. I think she is one of the most important and enigmatic characters in Church life for what is related to the past century. It is obvious that, as always when we talk about people who had supernatural visions, we are entering a very delicate field, a very slippery one, where it is very difficult to detach the message in itself from personal feelings or interpretations of the one who had the visions. This is unavoidable.
1917 was the year of Fatima apparitions but also the year of the arrival of Communism in Russia. Now, in Russia we cannot talk anymore of Communism but it seems to me, I don’t know if you agree, that even if Communism was beaten politically, it has won culturally. Meaning, the mentality brought from Communistic and leftist ideas is still well alive and in many case is the mentality that sets the agenda for everyone….
There is no doubt about this. We still we have to remember that a large part of the world is under Communism, like China (that you know very well), some countries in Latin America: the direct influence of Communism is strong, and it is also painful for those who have to live with it.
Communism is also an outcome of the Enlightenment, it is the outcome of two centuries of fight against Christianity and secularization, against the Church and against a natural way of living of the people. There is no doubt that culturally – in Europe, in part of the United States, in part of Latin America – Communism, even it if has fallen down as an active and effective political ideology, has provoked a collapse of human values, for example we think of the fight against family and family values.
I read your blog and I am familiar with your critique of certain sectors of the Vatican world. But talking about something slightly different: I would like to ask you, what is your idea about the situation of the Church in the world….
I can see that in Africa there is a great faith, these churches nowadays are well established, with great faith, great energy, great enthusiasm; in Latin America I don’t see the same situation. It seems that the social option, the “horizontal” option, is losing respect — the new charismatic and protestant movements. I think that if someone turns to religion, he does this to have some answers about the “vertical” life, to understand the meaning of his life, not only for social justice; to know what will be of me in the afterlife, if there will be something or nothing.
Now, from the moment that the Church does not “play on these keys,” the Church certainly loses, because is not that which the people, inside themselves, want. Certainly social justice is an important thing, but it is not what the Church has come to preach in the first place. The Church has come to preach a salvation for the afterlife, we know that his life has an end, often very rapidly and unexpectedly; I am interested on what comes next, it is a bet that we need to do. I can see that there is some vivacity in North America, at least some part of it. Europe, as prophesied by Benedict XVI, it is reduced at being a little and minority Church, a Church of witness.
You did not mention about Asia…recently I have seen many articles speaking of the “hope coming from Asia, the hope coming from Africa”; what do you think about that?
Asia is a very ancient continent, with very ancient and well-rooted traditions and religions; certainly the Philippines is a case in itself, as is South Korea. We have seen that the “bet” on Japan was lost, if we make reference to pure numbers. In China for sure there is growth, on the Catholic side and on the evangelical side, even if the numbers are quite small, comparing with the size of the population.
I am not sure what will be the future of evangelization of Asia. For sure in some countries the Church will grow, but I don’t see a great growth of Christianity in Asia, because there are religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism – and secularization that even there is hitting societies in a wild way like Japan, where Shintoism and Zen Buddhism are a minority phenomenon and so they do not influence the faith of people, Japan is really a secularized country – and so I don’t think there will be a great development. Of course I hope to be wrong on this.
Some people think that in the succession of Benedict XVI by Francis, there wasn’t only a simple change of Popes, but a sort of paradigmatic shift, if we want to follow the image given by Thomas S. Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Do you agree with this?
Absolutely! You need only to read what Pope Benedict was saying and writing and compare with what Pope Francis is saying. There is no doubt that there is a change. Indeed, I think that this is a Pontificate of great imbalance.
Can you give an example?
Let us look at the phenomenon of migrants. This phenomenon is certainly a complex one; it is a phenomenon that has political, economic aspects at all level, from the macro level to the small level, as we can see here in Rome with some recent scandals. So, to preach obsessively about welcoming everyone without remembering that the first justice, the first mercy would be to make in a way that people do not have to migrate, helping them seriously and intensively in their countries of origin, it is an imbalance.
And let us not forget that we are favoring the people that speculate on the skin of these migrants, throwing them on our shores and giving them the hope to have a better future. This is just one example, of course I can present others. So it is a pontificate not balanced in my opinion, the one of Benedict was another thing, without even mentioning the one of Saint John Paul II.