Prelate explains disclosure of third Fatima secret

VATICAN ( - Pope John Paul II waited until the Jubilee year to disclose the "third secret" of Fatima because the message concerned "the popes of the 20th century," the Vatican's Secretary of State has disclosed.

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Cardinal Angelo Sodano said that with the 20th century now concluded, the Holy Father saw no reason to delay public announcement of the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Also, he said, in light of historical developments, "the symbolic visions contain nothing mysterious."

Pope John Paul II read the third secret shortly after his election, the cardinal continued. But perhaps because the message takes the form of a symbolic vision, he did not show any special interest in that message until after the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981. At that point, however, the Pontiff immediately recognized the relevance of the vision, and gave credit to the Virgin Mary for preserving his life.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the spokesman for the Holy See, said that Pope John Paul had chosen not to release the secret himself, but to allow Cardinal Sodano to make the dramatic announcement. The reasons for that decision, he said, were twofold. First, the Pope felt a measure of personal reserve about publicizing the message, since he himself is clearly a protagonist in the prophetic vision. Second, he wished to indicate the official character of the announcement while still clearly preserving the distinction between this vision, which is a private revelation, and the body of Revelation transmitted through Scripture and Church tradition.

When journalists asked whether the announcement could be taken as a signal that the Pope is now considering stepping down, the papal spokesman quickly dismissed such speculation. A smiling Navarro-Valls remarked: "In the 17 years that I have worked for the Pope, I have never heard him make the slightest allusion to that subject."

Catholic World News Service - Vatican Update