May 13th, the Papacy and the Fatima Message

By Donal Anthony Foley –

CapelhinaExactly 99 years ago on this day, in the midst of World War I, Our Lady appeared for the first time to the three little shepherds at the Cova da Iria, near the village of Fatima. It was the first of a series of Fatima apparitions which have had such a marked impact on the Church and the world, and which are set to have a continuing impact for many years into the future—in fact, until the period of worldwide peace promised by the Blessed Virgin in July 1917 finally comes to pass.

Apart from what she said at this first meeting, what really impressed the young seers was the beautiful lady’s loveliness. As Sr. Lucia wrote in her memoirs:

“That very afternoon, while we remained thoughtful and rapt in wonder, Jacinta kept breaking into enthusiastic exclamations:

“Oh, what a beautiful Lady!”

“I can see what’s going to happen,” I said, “you’ll end up saying that to somebody else.”

“No, I won’t,” she answered, “don’t worry.”

Next day, Francisco came running to tell me how she had told them everything at home the night before.

The vision that Jacinta had seen was so wonderful she simply couldn’t keep quiet about it.

Cardinal Pacelli_croppedThat very same day on May 13, 1917, Eugenio Pacelli, who would later become Pope Pius XII, was consecrated as an archbishop in the Sistine Chapel in Rome by Pope Benedict XV. Pope Pius XII would become known as a great supporter of Fatima, and it is surely significant that the strong link between the Fatima message and the papacy – think of the “Bishop dressed in white” in the third part of the secret – should, in this mysterious way, go right back to the date of the very first apparition.

Sixty-four years later on this same date, May 13, 1981, news of the assassination attempt on St. John Paul II’s life, which took place at 5:17 in the afternoon, was flashed around the world.

The Pope was hit by four bullets from would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca’s 9mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol. One hit his right arm, another his left index finger, while the other two bullets lodged in his lower intestine. St. John Paul II was immediately rushed to the Gemelli hospital in Rome, while Ali Ağca and an accomplice were arrested.

It was touch and go as to whether the Pope’s life would be saved, but after numerous blood transfusions he finally pulled through.

Later on, when St. John Paul II went to visit Ali Ağca in prison, the prisoner asked him why he hadn’t died, since his aim was true and the bullet very powerful. The Pope replied, “One hand fired the shot, another guided it.”

God Allows Evil to Advance a Greater Good

PJP II & Mary Statue 72 dpiThe paradox is that this violent act, which was meant to abruptly terminate the Pope’s life and potentially plunge the Church into chaos, by God’s providence, ended up witnessing to God’s presence in the world through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. And in fact, St. John Paul II publicly acknowledged on a number of occasions that he owed his life that day to the intervention of Our Lady. In the Act of Entrustment he made at Fatima in 1991, he acclaimed Mary as “my Mother forever, and especially on May 13, 1981, when I felt your helpful presence at my side.”

This act also had the unintended consequence of significantly advancing the Fatima message in the Church, since, as the Pope was recovering from his wounds, he looked over the literature relating to the third part of the Fatima secret, and made a commitment to carry out the collegial consecration called for by the Blessed Virgin in July 1917 and June 1929. This act was finally done on March 25, 1984, and the ultimate result was the collapse of communism in Russian and Eastern Europe.

As a final irony, the bullet that almost killed St. John Paul II is now lodged firmly in the crown which adorns Our Lady’s statue at Fatima on special occasions, as a lasting reminder of the power of the Blessed Virgin’s protection for those who love her.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author and writer of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World.

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