The Message of Fatima is most significant and important for the salvation of souls. However, the Message of Fatima and Our Lady's appearance there, is also very important for the correct ordering of human society in this world. As Our Lady of Fatima pointed out, if mankind would listen to Her Message, then the peaceful ordering of individuals, families, cities and countries and in fact the whole world would be achieved. Such a claim for peace through all levels of society and throughout the whole world, could only be achieved if enough individuals at every level of society cooperated in the plan. And this plan could only succeed if it were based on the designs of the Creator of mankind. Who has appointed Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Apoc. 19:16). Jesus is King, not only of individuals but also of societies and the whole world. Therefore if this plan of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is Queen of Heaven and of earth, is to work, mankind must acknowledge the sovereign Kingship of Christ over all mankind. Thus one can understand that the prince of this world, as Jesus Christ referred to the devil, would not accept easily the destruction of his kingdom here on earth. Nor would the peace plan from Heaven be accepted by those men, associations and secret societies whose power and ill-gotten riches would be lost if the peace plan from Heaven were put into effect. With this background we can better understand the following account of the opposition to the Message of Fatima that reared its ugly head even while the apparitions were going on. You can be sure that this opposition to Our Lady and Her Message from Heaven has not ceased even in our own time.
The following article is a continuation of the one beginning in issue number seven, of the history of the opposition to the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. The initial opposition came from the Mayor of Ourem and his allies. (Ourem is the county to which the village of Fatima belonged.) The Mayor of Ourem was an atheist and a Freemason. He and his friends hoped to build a Godless Republic, and they regarded Catholicism as an adversary and a threat to their political power. To see an open manifestation of belief in God and in the Mother of God, among the people, embarrassed and infuriated the militant atheists. They were determined to suppress devotion to God and Our Lady, and they hoped to eradicate religion entirely from the lives of the people.
In 1920, three years after the Miracle of the Sun had occurred at Fatima, and after Our Lady had taken Jacinta and Francisco to Heaven as She had said She would, there was already a little chapel on the site of the apparitions, and on May 13, 1920, a statue of Our Lady was brought to the chapel. It was carried there hidden under farm tools in an ox-cart, for fear of its being confiscated or destroyed by the anti-religious civil authorities, or by the hoodlums they sometimes encouraged.
Senhora Maria Carreira relates: "Well, it got here, all right, in an ox cart, but for a while it was not brought to the Cova, because of rumors we kept hearing that the Freemasons were planning to blow up our little chapel and kill us all. Meanwhile it was kept in the sacristy of the Church, where Father Reis, who was taking Father Ferreira's place, blessed it himself."
The fears of Our Lady's good friends proved to be justified, as one would see from the events that followed. In Lisbon, in April of 1920, some of the more extreme opponents of Fatima learned that a great pilgrimage to the Cova da Iria where Our Lady appeared, was being organized in the town of Torres Novas for Ascension Day. They heard that a statue of Our Lady, commemorating the Apparitions was to be set up in the Cova da Iria. People would be journeying all the way from Lisbon as well as from other towns, and there would be children dressed as angels, and there would be priests, including Jesuits, who were particularly despised by the anti-clericals. The projected pilgrimage so provoked the anti-religious faction that the following letter from Julio Ferreira, who was the Secretary of the Exterior, was sent to Arturo Santos, the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, whose authority extended to Fatima.
Through our mutual friend, Senhor de Sousa, it has come to our knowledge that reactionary elements in your country are preparing to canonize the deceased seer of Fatima, and so continue the disgusting religious exploitation of the people which has been set in motion. We beg you, therefore, to inform us as to what stage these maneuvers have reached in order that we, the Government, and your good self, may take such precautions as seem advisable to neutralize this shameless Jesuitical trick ..."
Senhor Lopes, who was at that time secretary to the Mayor of Ourem, later told Father De Marchi of the Mayor's reaction to the news of the proposed pilgrimage:
"As the rumor of the proposed pilgrimage began to spread around, Arturo exclaimed: 'I must put a stop to this ridiculous fairy tale!' I replied, 'You won't be able to do anything!' He then said: 'Not a soul shall get in there; they can't do anything against brute force!'"
On the 30th of the month all the regedors of the county were
asked to appear in the County Hall on May 6th. The Civil Governor of Santarem
sent the Mayor a telegram telling him the people were to be forbidden to
organize a procession, and that disobedience to this order would be punished by
law. The mayor instructed his regedors to give him the names of the organizers
of the pilgrimage "in order that law may be applied in case of disobedience."
The Mayor asked for troops, and his request was promptly fulfilled. The Civil
Governor sent a telegram to the Mayor:
"To the Mayor of Vila Nova da Ourem
Armed Municipal Guard will be placed at your disposal, occupy strategic points, prevent transit Fatima procession."
Dr. Formigao, who wrote the first book published about the Fatima apparitions, traveled from Lisbon to Vila Nova da Ourem and from there to Fatima on May 13, 1920, the day of the pilgrimage. He relates what happened in Vila Nova da Ourem early that morning: "Very early in the morning we heard a troop of horses passing, and ran to the window where we saw a squadron of Cavalry of the Republican Guard which was proceeding at a gallop in the direction of Fatima ... there were infantry, cavalry, machine-guns, and I know not what besides. A general offensive seemed to be in progress, but against what ...! ... No one knew ... One thing was certain: from Ourem no one could go to Fatima. In Tomar, it seemed, the same prohibition was in force, also in several other districts where authorities had forbidden the departure of vehicles."
After a while people began to be allowed to go as far as Fatima, but no further, that is, not to the Cova da Iria. Dr. Formigao describes the situation: "At about that time the rain stopped and I went out into the road where I watched the passage of carts and cars, trucks, footfolk and horsemen - a regular excursion! There were carts decorated with flowers ... motor cars blowing their horns, grand looking carriages, modest dog carts ... men and women on foot, soaked to the skin and covered with mud, dripping with water, but happy, smiling." People were laughing at the Mayor who was standing in the middle of the road looking uncomfortable.
Dr. Formigao continues: "At last we entered the little square facing the church. Everywhere we saw carts, carriages and cars parked. A great crowd of people, numbering thousands, was blocking the square and the church. In the middle of the road a force of infantry and cavalry of the Republican Guard was preventing the people from passing, or completing the remaining three kilometers which separate Fatima from the Cova. I asked some bystanders whether anyone had in fact passed. Until midday, I was told, everyone had gone through, but then the Mayor had arrived and forbidden it. I asked the commandant whether one might go through, but he informed me politely that he had allowed people to pass until the Mayor had given orders to the contrary. He was very sorry, but he had to obey orders. I went back and mingled with the enormous crowd which was gathered inside the church and on the porch, sadly commenting on the affair, and unable to understand what threat to public order could possibly exist in the Cova da Iria and not in Fatima, since the people were the same. It was perfectly ridiculous, everyone agreed.
Many people tried to get through the fields without being seen, climbing over walls and other obstacles, and managed to arrive at the place of the Apparitions, counting themselves fortunate to kneel there and say the Rosary. Perhaps it was this which put the Government in peril!"
Most of the people, however, were unable to get through, and they went home. One man tried to force his way through the guards, and when they prevented him, he threatened them, and in the confusion that followed, several innocent people received blows from the batons of the guards.
Two days later, friends of the Mayor sent him a letter in which
"The Portuguese Federation of Freethought tenders you its profound sympathy in the action, so well in accord with Republican sentiments and freethought, which you have taken with regard to the pretended miracle of Fatima whereby Jesuit and clerical reaction are trying to exploit popular ignorance ..."
The Mayor wrote a letter to the regedor of Fatima in which he
"I beg to inform you that in future no religious parade of any kind may take place in your parish without the knowledge of my Administration. Kindly notify the parish priest and the promoters of any religious manifestation of my orders and inform me personally of any incident of a superstitious nature which may occur in connection with the so-called miracle of Fatima."
The faithful patrons of Our Lady, prizing dearly the statue donated by Senhor Gilbert, suspected that there were serious hazards before them. Maria Carreira continues her history of the statue and the shrine:
"We were so afraid of some profanation, but at the same time we were longing to be able to venerate a statue of Our Lady in the very place where She had appeared. One day Senhor Gilbert came and said that he thought it would be a good idea to veil over the niche so that people would think the statue was already there. Then we could see if anything untoward happened. So I put a towel over the niche and everyone thought Our Lady was behind it. Nothing at all happened. So Senhor Gilbert brought the statue and put it in the niche. Months passed, and there began to be new rumors that the statue was to be stolen and the chapel burned down. So we thought it would be better to take the statue to my home and bring it to the chapel every morning. It must have been about the end of October, when my husband brought Our Lady to our home in Moita. We arranged a little altar in the sitting-room, and put the statue on it with two oil lamps burning.
We were perfectly right to be afraid, for on March 6th of the next year we heard a terrible explosion during the night. The Freemasons had placed four bombs in the chapel, and a fifth by the tree where Our Lady appeared. The roof was blown off, but the bomb by the tree did not explode."
(continued next issue)