By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tTry as he might to insist that a tight focus on the details of the Fatima revelations is a prescription for mischief, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the world’s most celebrated Marian shrine inevitably evokes the undercurrent of secrets and cosmic mysteries long associated with the reported appearances of Mary to three shepherd children between May and October 1917.
tThat body of lore includes, most famously, the “three secrets” of Fatima:
•tA vision of Hell and world wars;
•tA request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary;
•tA vision of a bishop in white slain by bullets and arrows, often taken to be a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.
Debate continues to swirl in Fatima circles as to whether the Vatican ever complied with the request to consecrate Russia, even though two popes – Pius XII and John Paul II – claimed to have done so. Some Fatima devotees, however, argued that the consecrations were inadequate, either because they lumped Russia in with the rest of the world or because they weren’t carried out in concert with all the bishops of the church.