By Laura Ieraci, Catholic News Service     5/12/2015

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The so-called “secrets” of Our Lady of Fatima tell of today’s Christian persecution, in addition to the martyrdom of the past century, said Cardinal Angelo Amato.

The prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes opened a conference May 7 on “The Message of Fatima between Charism and Prophecy.” The text of his talk was published May 8 on the website of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Cardinal Amato said he had “the privilege” of reading the original manuscripts of the secrets of Fatima when he served as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002 to 2008.

“I meditated on them at length because they cast a light of faith and hope on the very sad events of the past century, but not only,” he said.

Despite popular hopes that the 20th century would be a time of reason and brotherhood, “it was in fact a tragic period for Christianity,” he said.

Besides the two world wars, he said, “most tragic” incidents of Christian persecution occurred, including “the Armenian genocide, the Mexican repression, the Spanish persecution, the Nazi massacres, the communist extermination and, in this first part of the third millennium, Islamist persecution.”

“There are millions of victims of evil ideologies, which generated conflicts and continue to generate conflicts, hatred and division,” he added.

“As Pope Francis often repeats, the church today is a church of martyrs, of those Christians who, defenseless, are killed daily out of hatred for their unshakeable faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ,” he continued.

“The message of Fatima, in a visionary way, evokes this tragedy, lifting the veil on concrete historical events,” where the devil “opposes God’s benevolence” and “continues to tempt” the church, just as he tempted Jesus, “instilling in men’s hearts feelings of enmity and death,” he said.

Cardinal Amato described the Fatima message, with its concrete allusions to war, division and tragedies, as “without a doubt the most prophetic of modern apparitions.”

However, he dismissed claims that there is more to the secrets of Fatima than what has been made public. Canadian Father Nicholas Gruner, who died April 29 of a sudden heart attack, founded the “The Fatima Crusader” magazine and was among the strongest voices claiming that there was more to the message of Fatima than had been revealed.

“There is no fourth secret and there are no other hidden secrets,” said Cardinal Amato.

Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, and confided in them three secrets. Years later, Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries, wrote them down. The first two secrets included a vision of hell, along with prophecies concerning the outbreak of World War II, the rise of communism and the ultimate triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, especially in Russia if the country was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. They were made public in the 1930s.

Sister Lucia wrote down the third secret, and gave it to her local bishop in a sealed envelope. It was sent to the Vatican in 1957, where successive popes read it but decided not to reveal its contents. It was finally made public in 2000. It told of a “bishop in white” who falls dead after being shot by soldiers on a hill. Behind him are many martyred priests, bishops and faithful.

Cardinal Amato said the interpretation of the third secret was entrusted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was prefect at the time, suggested in his interpretation that it referred to the 1981 assassination attempt on St. John Paul II and he “affirmed that Fatima helps us ‘to understand the signs of the times and to find the correct responses for them in the faith,'” said Cardinal Amato.

“The maternal hand that diverted the bullet without killing the pope indicates that an immutable destiny does not exist and that the power of faith and prayer can influence history: prayer is more powerful than bullets,” explained Cardinal Amato.

Cardinal Amato said Fatima also reveals the opposition between Mary and the devil.

“There is the need to recognize the presence and action of evil on people and populations in history,” he said. “Humanity is constantly seduced by the opponent of good, which is always ready to make (humanity) fall into the abyss of perdition.”

“But the Son of God came precisely to destroy the works of evil,” he continued. “And in this fight, Mary, fully involved in the saving work of Christ, cooperates effectively with her divine Son against Satan.”

Mary “accompanies the church and humanity” through history and arouses in the hearts of the faithful “forces for good” that win against the “assaults of men and perverse ideologies.”

“In this resides the charisma of Fatima,” he said, which he described as “a gift of the Trinity” that allows people and the church “to become increasingly aware of the struggle of good versus evil and of the inevitable victory of grace over sin.”

“The vision of Fatima lifts the veil on the hell that exists on earth, but it also offers the consoling prophecy of our heavenly home,” he concluded.