In the Spring and Summer of 1917, three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, reported several Marian apparitions. They revealed a prophecy related to them by the Virgin Mary about the end of the Great War that was raging in Europe at the time. In the following months, thousands of people flocked to Fatima drawn by reports of visions and miracles. After some newspapers reported that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13, a huge crowd of several tenths of thousands, including reporters and photographers, gathered at Cova da Iria. What happened that day became known as the "Miracle of the Sun". The sun, appearing to cast multicolored lights across the landscape, careened towards the earth before zig-zagging back to it normal position. Witnesses reported that their previously wet clothes from the rain became suddenly and completely dry, as did the wet and muddy ground around them.
The two younger shepherds, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, died two and three years, respectively, in an international flu pandemic that started in 1918. They were beatified by Pople John Paul II in 2000 and canonised by Pope Francis two months ago. The oldest child, Lucia Santos, survived the epidemic and became a nun. She continued to experience similar visions until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.
The Fatima apparitions drew considerable attention in Russia because, according to Lucia, the Virgin Mary prophesied a great suffering for Russia in the near future. She promised that the Consecration of Russia would lead to the country's conversion and an era of peace. In 1952, Pope Pius XII consecrated Russia to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The next year, the era Stalinism ended with the death of the Soviet dictator. In 1984, the consecration was repeated by Pope John Paul II. The next year, perestroika, which led to the fall of the godless Soviet state, began. In a multi-volume History of Russia, published in 2010 by more than three dozen eminent authors from Russia and abroad, the description of these apparitions, told with an underlying tone of careful but palpable amazement and approval, occupy two-and-a-half pages, and the Russian version of Wikipedia, for example, describes the prophecies in more detail than the English version.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of these apparitions, one could wonder what their meaning for the relationship between the two separated churches and the recent fate of Russia could be. Six years ago, Rev. George Maksimov, a well known theologian, offered an explanation in his article "The Orthodox Attitude Toward the Apparitions in Fatima". Here is the text:
The Holy Fathers of the Church recognised that miraculous apparitions and supernatural experience exist not only in the Orthodox Church, but in other confessions as well. Attitudes toward them have been determined by the biblical understanding, according to which not all miracles come from God, but there are miracles carried out by the power of the devil, since in order to seduce people sometimes even "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). In the contest between Moses and the Egyptian magicians (Ex 7:10-12), one can already see that the miracles of pagans are not from God; miracles carried out by the devil in the time of Antichrist are also described in detail (Rev. 13:11-14).
St. John Cassian wrote that "quite often people depraved in mind and the enemies of faith... exorcise demons and do great miracles, so that even the power of healing sometimes comes from the unworthy and the sinful. The healings of this kind occur due to seduction and contrivance of demons. A person turned to public vices can sometimes perform amasing acts. Through them people are enticed to imitate his vices and wickedness, and the wide path toward destruction and desecration of Christian religion is opened."
The devil carries out miracles in fake religions and heretical churches in order to keep their adherents delusional, and also to draw Orthodox Christians to these delusion as close as possible.
The so-called Apparitions of Fatima were critically researched by many Orthodox authors, including hierodeacon Makary (Petanov), Deacon Aleksei Staritsyn, V. Melnikov, and an extremely doubtful character of these miracles was observed.
Indeed, this event wholly supports Catholicism, and the active propagation of Fatima apparitions by the Catholics is therefore not surprising. This "Lady", who at the beginning of the 20th century appeared to three Portuguese shepherds, fully recognised the primacy of the Pope and his aspirations toward a world spiritual power when she said the consecration of certain countries, including Russia, to the Mother of God depended on him. This "Lady" directly professed the Catholic dogma of purgatory, talked about salvation found in Roman Catholicism, sowed the Catholic "Cult of the Sacred Heart" and the practice of the rosary prayer. The apparition of an "angel" gave the children communion in the form of unleavened bread and presented the sacrilegious idea that children have to offer redeeming sacrifice for the sins of the non-believers.
There is no doubt that, according to "Lady's" prophecy, a real miracle took place and was simultaneously seen in 1917 by a few thousand people, including atheists. But looking at eyewitness accounts, nothing akin to God's miracles can be seen in it. All the true miracles, described in the Gospel and the lives of saints had a spiritual/moral significance. And what meaning, what moral, what spiritual use, what confessing of Christ can be found in the sun becoming multicoloured, trees violet and the people yellow, and in the movement of a shining object across the sky? What is Christ-like in those doubtlessly strange colour and light effects? Nothing. It is not surprising that some Orthodox authors called the mass Fatima miracle one of the rehearsals for the miracles of Antichrist. It is worth noting that at times the children themselves experienced doubts about seeing the Mother of God and angels, and after the apparitions they felt great physical and spiritual exhaustion, even desperation.
Concerning prophecies about the triumph of communism in Russia and the persecution of Christians apparently told by the "Lady," one should have in mind that they were first recorded in 1936, nineteen years after they were supposedly first heard.
There were so many inconsistencies connected to the apparitions of the "Lady," who did not even name herself for a long time to the children, that the Catholic priest who first heard about them reacted to the story with great suspicion. But rather quickly (two years later in the person of the local bishop), the Roman Catholic hierarchy recognised these miracles, and started to actively support their cult despite numerous discrepancies. On the whole, the entire Fatima activity stimulated the locals to become more zealous adherents of Catholicism (which was really important for Portugal at the time), and was supposed to accustom Russians to the idea that the Mother of God is expressing her care about their country through the Roman Catholic church, which completely corresponded to Vatican's policy carried out in the 20th century.
As Father Tikhon (Shevkunov) noticed, "the aim of the almost 100-year activity of Fatima [...] is the regular attempt to subordinate Russia to the Pope. After all, all the interpretations of the so-called 'Fatima secrets' came precisely to that."