During World War I Pope Benedict XV made repeated but forlorn pleas for peace, and finally, in May 1917, made a direct appeal to Mary to intercede for peace in the world. The response was Mary’s first appearance at Fatima just over a week later. At this time Fatima was just a small village about seventy miles north of Lisbon; the three children to whom she appeared were Lucia dos Santos, aged ten, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, brother and sister, aged eight and seven respectively.
On 13 July the three children assembled at the Cova and again they saw the indescribably beautiful Lady over the holmoak. Lucia asked what she wanted, and Mary replied: “I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you.”
Lucia then asked her who she was and for a miracle so everyone would believe: “Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.”
Lucia made some requests for sick people, to which Mary replied that she would cure some but not others, and that all must say the rosary to obtain such graces, before continuing: “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The vision of hell
Lucia later revealed that as she spoke these words, Mary opened her hands and rays of light from them seemed to penetrate the earth so that they saw a terrifying vision of hell, full of demons and lost souls amidst indescribable horrors.
“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
At this point the second part of the secret of Fatima ends and the third part begins with the words, “In Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved … ” The first two parts of the secret only became publicly known in 1942. The third part of the secret has only recently been publicly divulged, in June 2000.
Mary specifically told Lucia not to tell anyone about the secret at this stage, apart from Francisco, before continuing: “When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” After assuring Lucia that there was nothing more, Mary disappeared off into the distance.