May 13, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – Pope Francis visited Fatima this weekend to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary on May 13, 2017, and to canonize Francisco and Jacinta. Granted I did not watch the full coverage of Pope Francis, and fast forwarded through the videos on YouTube but…what struck me most is that I never saw a clip of Pope Francis kneeling in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. It took me all of 5 seconds to search YouTube to see if there was video of Pope Benedict XVI kneeling before a statute of Our Lady of Fatima. I quickly found one (see here).
There is also a clip of Pope Francis visiting the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta at Fatima. Again, he did not even kneel to say a simple prayer or meditation beside the tombs – even with a kneeler in front of him! All very odd. When it is remembered that by all accounts Pope Francis never seems to kneel or genuflect at the consecration or in the presence of the Eucharist, none of any of this should come as a surprise. There could potentially be a health issue involved, such as a bad back, which might make it impossible or difficult to kneel. That might seem an explanation, but given the Pope will kneel when washing the feet of those he does on Holy Thursday, the health angle appears doubtful.
Curiously, it is reported that Pope Francis while at Fatima referred to himself as the “bishop dressed in white” – a phrase used by Sister Lucia, one of the Fatima visionaries, in writing of the Third Secret. The released text of the Third Secret reads in part:
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Now, Pope Francis certainly is a “bishop dressed in white,” but he cannot be the “bishop dressed in white” referenced by Sr. Lucia. How do we know this? First of all, the Vatican explanation of the Secret is that John Paul II is the bishop of the vision, which – they say – describes the attempted assassination of him. Beyond that, even if the Vatican interpreters are wrong and we posit that some future pope is intended, we still have very good reason to doubt – with a high degree of certainty – that Pope Francis would be the “bishop dressed in white.” The reason it is improbable Pope Francis is the “bishop dressed in white” is because the pope of the above vision is actually said to be “on his knees at the foot of a big cross” – and the “on his knees” thing seems to be something Pope Francis just does not do.