Archbishop Viganò, Fatima and Civitavecchia

Dr. Maike Hickson emerged in 2016 as a leading controversialist in discussions about Fatima, when, on Pentecost Sunday of that year, she wrote an article about a telephone conversation she had with the late Father Ingo Dollinger. On various occasions Father Dollinger, who had personal contact with Cardinal Ratzinger, stated that he had been told by the future Benedict XVI that there was more to the Third Secret than what had been published by the Vatican. On Saturday of that week the Vatican published a denial, quoting Benedict XVI himself. Then in 2019 Bishop Athanasius Schneider stated in his book Christus Vincit that one could not adhere to the theory of a missing document of the Secret, because it would call into question the honesty of Benedict XVI. However, in 2020, the highly respected Archbishop Viganò made statements supporting the theory of a missing document, and Maike Hickson and others cited his comments to support their thesis.

More recently Dr. Hickson has added another detail to her analysis, this time in an article about statements of Archbishop Viganò relating to reports of revelations of Our Lady beginning in 1995 in Civitavecchia, near Rome, to the young girl Jessica Gregori and to her family. According to Archbishop Viganò’s account, this event is related to the Third Secret of Fatima, because according to those reports Our Lady would have spoken to Jessica about the Third Secret, and then Jessica herself subsequently visited Sister Lucia in Coimbra, and spoke to her privately about the Secret. What is reported to have been revealed to Jessica Gregori by Our Lady about the Third Secret is said to have been identical to what had been revealed to the seers of Fatima.

The question of whether the reported apparitions in Civitavecchia have been approved by the Church is extensively analyzed by Archbishop Viganò, but our primary interest here centers around the support that it receives from him personally. What we wish to examine are not the facts relating to the investigation, but the explanation given to the message of Fatima and the Third Secret by Archbishop Viganò in relation to Civitavecchia.

Sister Lucia stated that we are living in the last times, and Catholics throughout the world are seeking to understand the crisis in the Church in our time. Defenders of the theory of a missing document of the Third Secret – a “fourth secret of Fatima” in the words of journalist Antonio Socci – believe they have found in Archbishop Viganò an important ally of their position, the theory that the “fourth secret” would provide the ultimate explanation of the crisis in the Church. Meanwhile the contrary position of Bishop Athanasius Schneider – a prelate who, along with Archbishop Vigano, is also highly respected – has been overlooked. If, however, one examines what both of these bishops have been saying, one finds the same understanding of the message of Fatima and the Third Secret, completely independent of the theory of the “fourth secret.” In fact, Archbishop Viganò does not speak about a missing document of the Secret in his recent interview regarding the events in Civitavecchia, but about the message of Fatima in relation to those events.

Central to the publication of the Third Secret was the role of Cardinal Ratzinger, who nearly five years after its publication became Benedict XVI, in April of 2005. Then, in May of 2010, on a trip to Fatima, Benedict XVI spoke again about the Third Secret and its interpretation, going beyond what had been stated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in June 2000. In his remarks on that occasion he referred to the “passion” of the Church, describing it as being not solely due to external persecution, but also to infidelity within the Church, and therefore to an internal crisis in the Church. This was interpreted by defenders of the fourth secret as a reference to a hypothetical missing document, but there was nothing in Benedict XVI’s statement confirming this. Rather, the Pope was giving an interpretation of the spiritual or allegorical meaning of the Third Secret, going beyond a literal interpretation which the Vatican had given in June of 2000.

This spiritual interpretation of the Third Secret was explained by Bishop Athanasius Schneider when he rejected the hypothesis of a fourth secret (Christus Vincit, chapter 19, “Fatima and the Third Secret”). Nor was this spiritual interpretation solely his own. The late Father Nicholas Gruner had already acknowledged and explained it in the summer 2000 edition of The Fatima Crusader. In June 2005, and again in October 2013, the former superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, spoke of the published Third Secret as representing the passion and death of the Mystical Body, further developing, in light of the Third Secret, the thought of the Society’s founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, regarding the passion of the Church. This passion and death of the Mystical Body could not mean the physical death and disappearance of the Church, for Our Lord promised that He would be with the Church all days until the end of time. It could only refer to a spiritual death – a doctrinal and moral crisis within the Church.

Preserving Christian Publications has been dedicated for the past thirty-seven years to preserving our Catholic heritage during the worst crisis in the Church’s history. We started by distributing out-of-print Catholic books, and then we began reprinting books – with special emphasis on those needed for the traditional Roman liturgy. To these we added new books addressing the crisis in the Church in our time, among which is Bishop Laise’s documented study Holy Communion, followed by Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael, and the booklet Fatima and the Third Secret. Now that more and more Catholics are focusing on the meaning of this crisis – including members of the hierarchy of the Church – these books are offered to help in the understanding of the passion of the Mystical Body.