On Sunday, tens of thousands of pilgrims celebrated the 90th anniversary of the famous visions seen at Fatima, Portugal. In response to the continuing interest in the "third secret" given to the three shepherd children, which is rumored to have predicted the end of the Catholic church and/or the world, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone -- the Pope's second-in-command -- has declared that it is "pure fantasy."

To counter "the most absurd theses" Bertone has published The Last Fatima Visionary: My Meetings With Sister Lucia, which so far is only available in Italian. He said, "Clearing up the question was a pastoral concern."

The visions of a radiant "lady" floating above an oak tree at Fatima, Portugal, on a monthly basis from May to October 1917, have fascinated people for decades. Originally the sightings by three children were interpreted as being of the Virgin Mary, which is understandable considering the social and religious context of the percipients and the period.

The apparition of the lady was also associated with sightings of lights, strange clouds, the falling of "angel hair" and ultimately the spinning of the sun viewed by at least 50,000 people on Oct. 13, 1917. Witnesses to this were located at the Cova da Iria and at locations 15, 20 and 30 kilometers away. Heat from this "'solar" phenomenon dried wet clothes and apparently healed people who were exposed to it.

What is intriguing is that no one except the three children, namely Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Jucinta Marto and Francisco Marto (aged 10, 7 and 9, respectively) saw the lady. However, none of the children saw the same thing. Lucia was able to see the apparition and to hear and speak with her, apparently, in Portuguese. Jacinta saw and heard her, but understood little of the conversation. As for Francisco, he saw the "lady" speak, without moving "her lips."

This is a problem often encountered when dealing with multiple UFO sighting or abduction cases. There is usually one prime percipient while the others tend to miss the main action, remain silent or in abduction terminology are "switched off" during the encounter. It is significant that in this instance the children were closely related and the eldest was the main ringleader, who continued to have visions in adulthood.

In the first of two books about the Fatima apparitions, Heavenly Lights (EcceNova Editions, 2005), Joaquim Fernandes and Fina D'Armada cover the reports of the sightings of the lady and associated phenomena.

©EcceNova Editions

This is viewed with approval by parapsychologists Lawrence Kennedy and Sandra Sitzmann, who state:
The authors explain what actually happened during "The Miracle of the Sun." The evidence indicates that it was not an astronomical event but rather an aerial one that resulted when an alien craft caused a partial eclipse of the Sun and performed other amazing displays that bedazzled the thousands of curious onlookers who came to Fatima.

What emerges is a true telling of the Fatima incident that will stand the test of time as the leading book that establishes the extraterrestrial or inter-dimensional origin of this important case. In the great tradition of fact informing fantasy, so that the conclusions drawn are far-reaching rather than far-fetched, Heavenly Lights is a tour de force.
In Celestial Secrets: The Hidden History of the Fatima Cover-Up (EcceNova Editions, 2006), Fernandes and D'Armada go on to study the subject in two parts.

©EcceNova Editions

In the first part they show that the Portuguese press predicted the appearance of the apparitions, look at the specific geology of the sighting location, reveal that Lucia saw "angels" before 1917, uncover a fourth witness and take a look at the contactee syndrome.

The predictions in the press amount to an announcement in the March 10, 1917, edition of Diario de Noticias, which contained the numerical headline: 135917. This is interpreted as representing the May 13, 1917, the day the Fatima visions began. Two days before that date several national newspapers quoted a psychic called Antonio to the effect that on the 13th, "there will occur an event, with respect to the war, that will strongly impress the world."

The authors seem to think these psychic messages were part of an Operation Fatima organized by the forces that created the apparitions. They suggest that the location, the witnesses and the appearance of the apparitions were carefully chosen to create a mythos that would carry their "secret" to those who might be able to read it in the future.

My own reading of this is that the public was primed to put significance on anything reported on that predicted date, and that the children's sighting fit the bill. Lucia was already predisposed to seeing "angels" and she could well have responded to the climate of anticipation generated by the newspaper "predictions."

The book is valuable because it brings to light the machinations of the Jesuits who shaped and controlled the story in a manner that suited their religious viewpoint. The authors' revelations are based on their unprecedented access to the original records of the incident, which were kept secretly by the Catholic Church at the Sanctuary of Fatima.

The second part of the book covers the so-called three secrets of Fatima. The first secret contained a vision of hell and the lady predicted that the Great World War would end very soon and that another one would follow it under Pope Pius XI.

The second secret warned that if Russia was not converted to Christianity, "the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated." The third secret was finally revealed by the Vatican on June 26, 2000. This seemed to refer to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, but otherwise seemed disappointing for a secret that had been kept so long under lock and key.

Fernandes and D'Armada show that the secrets recalled by Lucia went through a steady process of multiplication. At first they were a few words and did not become two secrets until 1927 and the third secret was not revealed by her until 1941. They note that Lucia "gathered ideas and became inspired by certain models." She lived in a convent and was surrounded by Biblical texts and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Her visions were "the best thing that could have happened to the Jesuits."

They acknowledge that her recall of events was often inaccurate but they contend that her memory of events where she was the only participant were infallible. Certainly, it is easy to be infallible when there is no one else to dispute you!

The strength of this book is that it shows the context and beliefs of the period that conditioned the interpretation of the Fatima visions and how they were maintained and promoted through the production of the Fatima "secrets."

The weakness of the book is that the authors do not consider that their own ufological context and re-examination of the case is as proscriptive as that of the Jesuits'.

Instead of considering the psychological factors that conditioned the children and Lucia in adulthood, they prefer to speculate that there was an Operation Fatima by intelligences using spacecraft and holographic projectors. They say, "Through illusions and projections, mostly hidden within the full amplitude of the electromagnetic spectrum -- they appear to be able to control us -- and through us, our systems of belief." This could have come straight from the pages of a 1970s vintage John Keel book, but the "new ufology" of that period has since moved on.