Pope John Paul II and Fatima

Abstract from the original German talks given at the German Mariological Consortium on Influece of Mary on Pope John Paul II, provided by Sister M. Danielle Peters.

Fatima in Life and Thought of John Paul II

– Ursula Bleyenberg

The message of Fatima tangibly intervenes in John Paul II’s life on May 13, 1981. The Pope considered the day of his attempted assassination not coincident. While still recuperating in the hospital, he asked for the documents concerning the third secret of Fatima and read them on July 18, 1981. On Pentecost Sunday 1981, which coincided with the 1550-year celebration of the Council of Ephesus in San Maria Maggiore, the Pope asked for a special consecration prayer to Mary to be read which especially gives expression to his belief in Mary’s protection. He repeated this consecration prayer on the first anniversary of the assassination. (On December 27, 1983 John Paul II visited Ali Agca in prison.) On the Feast of the Annunciation during the Year of Redemption 1984 John Paul II in spiritual union with all the bishops of the world before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in St. Peter’s Square repeated the act of entrustment of mankind and all peoples to Mary Most Holy. Five years later, Sister Lucia confirmed that the solemn consecration ceremony corresponded fully to the wish of Our Lady. Many interpreted the fall of communism in 1989 as being a consequence of the prayer to Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 2000 John Paul II beatified Francesco and Giacinta Marto. At the end of the Beatification ceremony at Fatima of, Cardinal Angelo Sodano announced that the "third part" of the secret of Fatima will be made public. The Message of Fatima was published in its entirety on June 26, 2000. One year later, on May 13, 2001 John Paul II during an Angelus Address asked “the Blessed Virgin Mary to show her motherly protection … on the day on which we commemorate her apparitions in Fatima. I myself experienced her protection on May 13, twenty years ago.”

While John Paul II was very conscious of the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima in his personal history, he also saw the message of Fatima in a greater historical context. The word Fatima does appear sparsely in the writings of John Paul II. On May 13, 1979 he wrote a letter to the local ordinary of Fatima and to all the pilgrims gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady in which he defined the core of the message of Fatima as the need to conversion. During his fifth pastoral voyage to Poland the Pope consecrated a new church dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. He said in his homily: “The history of this shrine is also linked with the event which took place in Saint Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. At that time I experienced mortal danger and suffering, but also the great mercy of God. By the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima my life was given back to me.” The Pope thanked the people of Krzeptówki for their prayers for him and acknowledged that the church was built in gratitude for his convalescence. “I know that this shrine… was built by many hands and many hearts united by hard work, sacrifice and love for the Pope. … Here, together with you, I wish once more to thank Our Lady of Fatima for the gift of my life having been spared, as I did at Fatima fifteen years ago. Totus tuus... I thank you all for this church. It is filled with your love for the Church and for the Pope. In some sense it is the continuation of my gratitude to God and to his Mother.”

Next the Pope drew attention to the sick and suffering and meditated on their hardships in light of the mystery of Fatima. In the presence of the bishop of Leiria/Fatima John Paul II emphasized the close relationship of this new Polish Shrine to the Portuguese pilgrimage place. He again stressed the message of Fatima which “consists in an exhortation to conversion, prayer, especially the rosary, and reparation for one's own sins and for those of all mankind.” John Paul II concluded his homily with a reference to “the message of Fatima as an outpouring of the love of the Heart of the Mother, who is always open to her child, never loses sight of him, thinks of him always, even when he leaves the straight path and becomes a ‘prodigal son’.” (cf. Lk 15:11-32) Mary’s maternal love is best shown in her compassion on Golgotha when she “became the mother of all those redeemed by Christ. From that time on, the greatest concern of her Immaculate Heart is the eternal salvation of all men and women.”

The coronation of Our Lady of Fatima in Salzburg, Austria on June 19, 1998 again offered the pope an opportunity to draw attention to the Fatima message. He placed the archdiocese under her special protection praying: "I entrust your Archdiocese and each of you to her. May Mary shelter you beneath her mantle … Under the protection of your mantle, O Mary, our anxieties and fears are overcome, and we rediscover trust and courage. Looking to you, we learn how to entrust ourselves to God with a confident and total, renewed abandonment.”

Pope John Paul II spoke briefly of the Message of Fatima at several other occasions: on May 31, 2001 at the John Paul II Institute in Rome; on September 24, 2000 in his Angelus Address directed to pilgrims from Portugal; on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Jubilee Year 2000. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae of October 16, 2002, he wrote about Mary’s apparitions in Lourdes and Fatima to indicate “that still today the Blessed Virgin desires to exercise through this same prayer that maternal concern to which the dying Redeemer entrusted, in the person of the beloved disciple, all the sons and daughters of the Church.” (RV 7)

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