MOSCOW, OCT. 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A new book describing John Paul II´s deep connection with Fatima was presented in Moscow last week, raising hopes that a papal visit to Russia is one step closer, according to Inside the Vatican magazine.
On Oct. 16, the 23rd anniversary of John Paul II´s pontificate, Aura Miguel, the most prominent Portuguese journalist in the Vatican press corps, presented her book “The Secret That Leads the Pope” in Moscow.
“Events like this one (the presentation of the book) make the visit of the Pope to Russia even more likely,” proclaimed Russian journalist Alexej Bugalov, correspondent for Tass news agency at the Vatican.
Opening the ceremony, Bugalov spoke with great emotion of the Pope´s recent visit to Kazakhstan, warmly recalling one of the banners at the papal Mass that proclaimed: “Holiness, we are waiting for you in Russia.”
“Even if these words have not yet been pronounced by the Russian Orthodox Church, they are pronounced by the simple faithful,” Bugalov observed.
The thesis of Miguel´s book is that John Paul II´s papacy is mysteriously sustained — led, as the title says — by the Secret of Fatima.
Many, particularly in the Catholic world, know the story of the apparitions of Mary in Cova da Iria, Fatima, Portugal, which began May 13, 1917, and continued for six months, always on the 13th of the month (except in August, when the three children were imprisoned by the town´s mayor).
Scores of books in many languages have been written on Fatima, but few have traced the connections between the Fatima apparitions and the papacy of Karol Wojtyla.
By presenting her book in Russia, Miguel has revealed a link between the life and work of John Paul II and the Secret of Fatima that most Russian people had never heard of, until now.
The book begins with the Pope´s regaining consciousness in the hospital after the assassination attempt in May 1981. One of those close to the Holy Father reminded him that the date of the assassination attempt was precisely the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.
Despite his precarious condition, John Paul II immediately requested that all of the documents regarding the mystery of Fatima be brought to him.
The author speaks of the “clamorous” experience of the Pope, of his “entering into the mystery” by means of a bullet, of his attempts to follow the instructions given by Mary in her later apparitions of 1925, 1926 and 1929; of his correspondence with Sister Lucia, the sole surviving visionary, who only after the consecration carried out in 1984 confirmed the fulfillment, in her view, of the Virgin´s requests.
The author did not know the contents of the third secret when she published the first edition of the book and did not wait for the Holy Father to make it public. The subsequent revelation of the secret, however, only confirmed the thesis of the book, which was then reissued, with the new information and explanatory notes.
During her presentation, Aura Miguel made reference to Vittorio Messori´s interview with the Holy Father in 1994, in which the renowned Italian journalist wanted to attribute to John Paul II a decisive role in world history over the last 10 years.
However, the Pope demurred, saying he did nothing but proclaim the Gospel: “Proclaiming the Gospel brings, on its own, the affirmation of human values and of respect for the human person, and his freedom.”
When Messori insisted, in a subsequent interview, on the Holy Father´s role in the fall of Communism, John Paul II, somewhat mysteriously, spoke of the message of Fatima, stressing that three young girls could not have understood or interpreted what they had heard. They were ignorant, did not know geography, history or the social changes that were occurring at that time, he said.
“Perhaps this is also why the Pope was called from a faraway country,” the Holy Father said, “and perhaps this is also why there had to be the assassination attempt in St. Peter´s Square on the very day of May 13, 1981… so that all would become more transparent and understandable, so that the voice of God, which speaks in the history of men through ´the signs of the times,´ could be more easily heard and understood.”
Aura Miguel added, “If the Pope believes that the assassination attempt was useful, this usefulness benefits all Christians, in the East and the West. It is also, then, thanks to the protective hand of the Virgin — which deflected the bullet — that we have had a pontificate in which the constant desire has been a unified Europe, which, even in its diversity, breathes with two lungs, Rome and Byzantium.”
Though it cannot be known in this world whether it is really through this inexplicable connection between Fatima and the papacy of John Paul II that Communism fell and that Russia has opened itself to a more democratic and free regime, it is clear that, through these events, the formerly persecuted Christians in the East have benefited.
A brief address by Viktor Popkov, the director of the book´s Russian publishing house, confirmed this benefit, saying many Russian Christians look with hope to the mystery of Fatima, which speaks of a Russia which must “free herself from her errors.”
This young Orthodox, who had firsthand experience of Communist concentration camps, conveyed in a few simple words something of what Christians during those dark years experienced, when even carrying a religious book was considered an act against the state, punishable by severe penalties.
“The 1970s were years of desperation,” Popkov said. “All attempts to rebel or to construct something ended badly, so much so that many asked themselves what was the point of doing anything, of living the faith, spreading it, organizing seminars, teaching the catechism.”
The election of a Polish Pope in 1978 was a sign for many: “A Slavic Pope, one of us, who knows well what Communism is …,” Popkov said. “At that moment the light of hope was lit that something big was beginning.”
Professor Yuri Karlov closed the evening´s presentations with the following address: “Again a thought, without which, perhaps, my attempt to understand the miracle of Fatima as a message meant for all Christians would be incomplete.
“We have spoken of the concrete ways in which the prophecies have been fulfilled on a political level; we have spoken of Gorbachev, his contacts, important political documents. But we must also keep in mind something else, which, allow me to repeat again, is that this was a message much more complex, addressed to all of us.
“Not only did Gorbachev visit the Vatican, but also the Metropolitan Yudenarij; not only did Communist bureaucrats establish contact with the Vatican, but there was also the great Russian Orthodox Leader, Metropolitan Nikodim, the man who personally converted me to the Orthodox faith.
“There were complex negotiations with Metropolitan Kirill and finally a thought from Gorbachev himself, which at that time would have been difficult to publicize. Already, then, when speaking of the changes in our (Soviet Union) attitude toward religion, towards Christianity, towards the Church, Gorbachev said: ´We stand in front of a triangle: the state, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican.´ In this triangle, all must be well-defined. It could be that Fatima will truly be of help in this.”