The passing of the personal secretary of Pope John XXIII on May 26 at the age of 100 brings a period of Church history, the period of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, to a close. What next?
“There was a second envelope.” —The late Cardinal Loris Capovilla, speaking to me in his residence in Sotto il Monte in early 2007, when I asked him why the letter of the Third Secret of Fatima held up on Italian television by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone did not contain any writing. Capovilla told me that he had written on the envelope in August 1959, when Capovilla, together with Pope John XXIII, read the Third Secret at Castel Gandolfo. Pope John told Capovilla to write on the envelope that the two had read the text that day, and that he, Pope John, had decided not to publish it but to leave it to one of his successors to publish. Capovilla did write those words on the envelope, he told me. Capovilla passed away on May 26 in Italy at the age of 100. May his soul rest in peace, and may eternal light shine upon him. “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” —Our Lady of Fatima, speaking to Sister Lucy, one of the three shepherd children who saw the Virgin in Fatima on six occasions in 1917, 99 years ago…
There are five stories I am following at this time, all inter-related:
(1) The mystery surrounding the 40-year-delayed publication of the “Third Secret” of Fatima in the year 2000, and the recent controversy over whether something concerning that secret still needs to be clarified. The story became a matter of polemics in May, including an unprecedented May 21 Vatican Press Office denial that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has ever said part of the “secret” had not been revealed.
(2) The true meaning and consequences of Pope Benedict’s resignation from his Petrine office in 2013. This topic took on new importance following a remarkable talk given by Archbishop Georg Gänswein on May 20 at the Gregorian University in Rome. Gänswein said Benedict, with the step he took on February 11, 2013, “has not abandoned this (Petrine) ministry” but “has built a personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a communal ministry.” Gänswein stressed that since Francis’ election, there are not “two Popes, but de facto an expanded ministry — with an active member and a contemplative member.” He added that this is why Benedict XVI “has not given up his name,” unlike Pope Celestine V (Pope for five months from July 5 to December 13, 1294, when he resigned) who reverted to his name Pietro da Morrone, “nor the white cassock.” What does all this mean? (See lead story in this issue on pages 12-15.)
(3) The true history of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. It now appears some of the most controversial passages in Chapter 8 were published almost word-for-word in essays in 2005 and 2006 by a friend and advisor of the Pope, Father Victor Manuel Fernandez, meaning these passages of the Exhortation were prepared a decade ago. Many Catholics are continuing to debate what this Exhortation means. In this issue we continue to offer reflections on this matter.
(4) The immigration into Europe of hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of Muslims and its consequences. We know Pope Francis has given strong support for the humane treatment of these immigrants — despite criticism from some Catholics, inside and outside of Europe, including nationalistic leaders in places like Hungary and Poland. We note also reports of the conversion to Christianity of some hundreds or even thousands of these immigrants. What does all this mean for the future of the Church?
(5) The Fatima prophecy of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” The apparitions at Fatima are not a matter of faith, and no Catholic is required to believe in them. However, they have been given special credibility by many Popes since 1917. Pope Francis will go to Fatima in May of 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition. Are the apparitions, and the prophecies associated with them, relevant to the current geo-political situation in Europe, the Middle East, and throughout the world?
I can add one small footnote to the general discussion. Toward the end of 2006, in Rome, I met on Via delle Fornaci, a few steps from St. Peter’s Square, at Eva’s Coffee Shop, with Antonio Socci and Solideo Paolini. Socci had just published a book entitled Il Quarto Segreto di Fatima (“The Fourth Secret of Fatima”). In that book, Socci had argued that the text of the document of the Third Secret of Fatima published by the Vatican in the year 2000 was not the full text of the final secret. There remained an unpublished text, the “fourth” secret, he had maintained. Paolini had been one of Socci’s sources to support this argument. Paolini had visited then-Archbishop Loris Capovilla on July 5, 2006, and had asked him a number of questions about Fatima. (Capovilla died on May 26 at the age of 100, and all of Italy is mourning the passing of this good man, who was the personal secretary of St. Pope John XXIII for 10 years, from 1953 to 1963, and then was the custodian of the memory of “Good Pope John.”) A full account of Paolini’s meeting with Capovilla is available on the internet.
After our conversation, I decided to go to northern Italy, to Sotto il Monte, to speak with Capovilla myself. I telephoned Capovilla, made an appointment , and rented a car to drive north from the Eternal City. I will publish an account of that trip and conversation in our next issue.
For the moment, I would like to stress the words of Pope Francis in his morning homily on June 6, “The Beatitudes guide us on the path of Christian life.” Reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, Francis said Jesus’ teaching on that occasion did not erase the Old Law; rather it “perfected” it, bringing it to its fullness: “This is the new law, the one we call ‘the Beatitudes.’ It’s the Lord’s new law for us.”
The Pope commented on the words of St. Luke who speaks of the Beatitudes and lists what he calls the “four woes”: “Woe to the rich, to the satiated, to those who laugh now, to you when all speak well of you.”
What’s bad, the Pope said, is “the attachment to riches” which becomes idolatry. Of all the Beatitudes, the Pope said, there is one in particular: “I’m not saying it is the key to all of them, but it induces us to much reflection and it is: Blessed are the meek. Meekness.”
Francis concluded: “Jesus says of himself: ‘Learn from me for I am meek of heart,’ I am humble and gentle at heart. To be meek is a way of being that brings us close to Jesus. The opposite attitude always causes enmities and wars… But meekness, meekness of heart which is not foolishness, no… It’s the capacity to be deep and to understand the greatness of God, and worship Him.”