Our Lady of Fátima is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on apparitions reported to have been experienced in 1917 by three shepherd children at Fátima, Portugal.
In the spring and summer of 1916, nine-year-old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep at the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fátima, Portugal. They claimed to have experienced the visitation of an angel on three occasions. The angel, who identified himself as "The Angel of Peace", taught them prayers, to make sacrifices, and to spend time in adoration of the Lord.
According to Santos, on July 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary is said to have entrusted the children with three secrets. Two of the secrets were revealed in 1941 in a document written by Santos. When asked in 1943 to reveal the third secret, Santos struggled for a short period, being "not yet convinced that God had clearly authorized her to act." In October 1943 she was ordered to put it in writing. Santos then wrote the secret down and sealed it in an envelope not to be opened until 1960, when "it will appear clearer." The text of the third secret was officially released by Pope John Paul II in 2000, although some claim that it was not the entire secret revealed by Santos, despite repeated assertions from the Vatican to the contrary.
- Mrs. L. S. D. asks the Question Box about what is in the last Fatima letter (Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, 40).
In 1960 the Vatican issued a press release stating that it was "most probable the Secret would remain, forever, under absolute seal." This announcement produced considerable speculation over the content of the secret:
- "During my childhood a story went around that Pope Pius XII had sneaked an early peek of the Third Fatima Letter and fainted dead away.”
- "The third letter had a major impact on Catholic children of my age, who were in grade school during the height of the cold war. So-called Fatima devotions were common throughout the Church. Bellairs once joked that Gerry Kadish, a Jewish friend of his at the University of Chicago, suggested that the third letter was a bill for the Last Supper.”