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For some time now we have been observing the Portuguese press from a distance. It becomes clear that the campaign of disinformation against the full Fatima Message and Our Lady's request for the Consecration of Russia is conducted very differently in Portugal than elsewhere.
There is a method to the madness of the enemies of Our Lady's message. They dare not repeat fully and explicitly to the Portuguese public what the propaganda machine of the anti-Fatima but allegedly Marian press spews out in North America.
In Portugal, the secular press and the religious press for the most part will not publish the details and frequently not even the outline of what Our Lady's enemies say Sister Lucy allegedly wrote or said. In Fatima and Portugal, the silence by the Fatima rector about Sister Lucy's alleged letters and pronouncements is deafening. (More about this in a future issue.)
It is rare that the Portuguese press deals in any depth with the five bogus letters of Sister Lucy. These letters are fakes as we have demonstrated in past issues.
It is nevertheless instructive that the few "anti-Consecration of Russia" propagandists in Portugal who seek to convince the rest of the world that Sister Lucy agrees with them are very careful not to repeat this lie in the Portuguese press because they know that this is not true and their lie would be exposed to public ridicule if they even attempted it.
That is why this article by Frère François which follows below taken from the January 1992 CRC magazine is most instructive. (Subtitles are added by the editor of The Fatima Crusader)
One propagandist in Portugal started his propaganda campaign against the petition drive for the Consecration of Russia and he was publicly confounded and to this day he has retreated into silence.
No self-respecting Portuguese person dare say such things in public press in his own country because he knows it will be disproved in public, and he will be exposed to all his neighbors and be seen for what he is a deceiver.
Father Geraldes Freire, professor of Latin language and literature at the University of Coimbra, is known in Portugal for his interpretations of the Fatima revelations — interpretations that we denounce as fallacious, but which are particularly appreciated by certain Portuguese and Roman prelates. It was notable that on May 13, 1991, he was given a special place of honor on the platform at Cova da Iria, a few yards away from Pope John Paul II.
At the end of August, Father Freire published a declaration in line with the official propaganda. He announced that "recent events in the Soviet Union were a confirmation of the Fatima Message" and were part of the "realization of the mystery of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary". In other words, he claimed that Our Lady's promises, and particularly the promise of Russia's conversion were actually being fulfilled. The regional daily newspaper for Coimbra, the Diario de Coimbra, reported his words; then on September 4th, it published a letter from one of its readers, M. Joao Alvares who refuted Father Freire's allegations in a clear and forceful demonstration. We quoted these two texts in the Catholic Counter-Reformation October 1992 (no. 242, Eng).
After the appearance of this clarification in the Diario de Coimbra on September 4th, Father Freire took shelter in absolute silence. So much so that M. Joao Alvares, in a letter published in the Coimbra daily for October 11th expressed his surprise at having received "no answer from the person concerned". And our Portuguese renewed his accusations concerning the "apocryphal letters allegedly signed by Sister Lucy" and circulated by the Fatima authorities in order to convince the devotees of Fatima that Mikhaïl Gorbachev's perestroïka marked the beginning of Russia's conversion.
Joao Alvares expressed his indignation, moreover, to see this promise of Our Lady's distorted and travestied by the Portuguese bishops. On September 8, 1991, in his homily for the annual pilgrimage of Our Lady of Penha, the Archbishop of Braga, Dom Enrico Dias Nogueira, gave "the return to religious liberty as the sign of Russia's authentic conversion, prophesied at Fatima." And he added: "No theologian interprets this conversion as an integration of the Soviet people into the fold of the Catholic Church for in their majority, the people there belong to the Orthodox Church, which sprang from the break or schism of Constantinople nearly a thousand years ago. A conversion signifies a return to God and to the high spiritual values proclaimed by the Gospel. This is what is occurring among the former communist peoples, nearly all of whom had been brought up in the Christian faith, in its various accidental (sic!) formulations."1
M. Alvares ended his letter by putting these two questions to Father Freire: "Firstly, if the consecration of Russia, the indispensable condition for its conversion, has not been done, how can Russia be on the way to conversion?" Secondly, will the Church of Portugal "at least recognize that these 'letters of Lucy' are false? Will she succeed in denouncing those responsible for these letters?"
The weeks passed. Father Freire did not depart from his silence whilst a new brainwashing campaign developed on the occasion of the visit to Fatima for the October 12th & 13th pilgrimage from Moscow led by Monsignor Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, a prelate of Polish origin, appointed April 13, 1991, as Archbishop of Moscow and apostolic administrator of Latin rite Catholics of Western Russia. At the same time, Monsignor do Amaral, who is certainly the author of Lucy's apocryphal letters,2 was actively engaged in preparing the international gathering for the Fatima "pastorale" that is due to take place at the Cova da Iria from the 8th to the 13th of October 1992. In a letter dated October 13, 1991 and addressed to diocesan bishops of the entire world, he announced the aim of this Congress: "To bring out the principles and lines of action that should strengthen the ecclesial communion and neutralize deviations which are frequent in this kind of apostolate." And he claims that in "requesting the consecration of the world and of Russia through the mediation of the Holy Father and all the bishops in union with him, Our Lady showed the path towards unity which has not yet been sufficiently explored."
In these circumstances, and probably supported by the prayers of Sister Lucy who for more than forty years has pursued her religious life at the Carmel of Coimbra, M. Joao Alvares wrote again to the Diario de Coimbra, who published his letter on November 16. Our Portuguese was concerned to "raise the curtain on the truth". For plainly the act of March 25, 1984, which in no way corresponded to Our Lady's request, has not been followed by the striking miracle of Russia's conversion, that is to say the end of her age old schism through a return to Roman unity, manifesting the power of the Blessed Virgin's Mediation and introducing into the world devotion to Her Immaculate Heart. M. Alvares, therefore, wanted to destroy "the myth" of Russia's supposed conversion, and to that end he gave some information to which we shall add a few details. In the enormous diocese of Monsignor Kondrusiewicz, there are actually only six priests serving six parishes. M. Joao Alvares pointed out that the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg each has only one Catholic church open for worship; in Moscow the Church of Saint Louis of the French, in Saint Petersburg, the Church of Saint Catherine. At Fatima this last October, Monsignor Kondrusiewicz had himself declared: "Before 1917, there were nearly a hundred and thirty Catholic churches in the European part of Russia, two seminaries and an ecclesiastical academy at Saint Petersburg." Today, outside the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, "our parishes, forty in number, are without a church or any other building where we can hold catechism or gatherings for Catholics. We have no newspapers, no access to television or radio. Relations between Church and State are delicate. Concerning the building of churches, I was told that the Vatican could build them since it was rich! Of the three Catholic churches that existed in Moscow before 1917, only one is open for worship. The others continue to be used as shops and offices. Yeltsin is disposed to hand them over to us but he is demanding a sum equivalent to fifty-seven thousand contos (about $570,000) for each one in order to reinstall the services not operating in them, which does not seem to me at all just."3
In the Autumn of 1991, much was made of the television program on Fatima transmitted on October 13 by all the official Soviet channels except those of the Muslim republics. M. Alvares did not allow himself to be taken in by such propaganda. Had not the Portuguese journalist Vilas-Boas noted: "Although much looked forward to and broadcast at a favorable hour, this program was not welcomed in Russia with all the enthusiasm hoped for."4 Furthermore, "questions posed directly in Red Square highlighted the great difficulties at present concerning relationships between the Orthodox and the Catholics."5 And in the course of the discussion in the television studio in Moscow, "the aggressiveness" of the Russian Orthodox Church was noticeable, remarked Vilas-Boas. "The deacon Vsevolod Tchapline lost his temper saying that Catholic believers talk of unity but they make no concrete attempt at dialogue with the Orthodox; he criticized the 'dishonest mission' and 'the setting up of parallel ecclesiastical structures' by the Catholic Church."6
M. Alvares rightly stressed that in granting a certain freedom of worship, the Soviet government "was giving equally free rein to pornography, drug addiction and anarchy". And he exclaimed: "A fine sort of conversion!" Then, relying on the words of John Paul II himself and of Bishop do Amaral, he once more demonstrated that the "consecration of Russia had never been done".
"With your permission, Sir," he continued, addressing himself to the newspaper's director, "I invite Professor José Geraldes Freire, a recognized authority on Fatima, to pronounce in the Diario de Coimbra on these two fundamental points: 1. On what criteria does he base his assertion that the consecration of 1984 was as Our Lady requested? 2. What criteria allow you to affirm that Russia is actually being converted?"
For two months, that is to say since the publication of M. Alvares' first letter, Father Freire's silence had been an enormous avowal of his incapacity to defend the official propaganda. But his contradictor was so insistent and tenacious that he, Father Freire, was obliged to break his silence. He had to explain himself publicly, and when he did so it was in order to say ... that he would not be answering! Here are the significant parts of his letter which appeared in the Diario de Coimbra for November 22, 1991. "On three different occasions and always in connection with the problems raised by M. Alvares, I have brought letters to the editor of the Diario de Coimbra asking that they be transmitted to him personally. Each of these letters contained a simple card. I assured M. Joao Alvares that I would be at his disposal for a frank and friendly meeting at which he could express his doubts and problems. As I have told him, I would be very pleased to meet him personally if he so wished." Now, "today, on my return from Portalegre where I have been for the closing of the diocesan seminary's IVth centenary, of which I have been president of the executive commission for more than a year, I read in the Diario de Coimbra for November 16, 1991 that M. Alvares is inviting me to pronounce in this newspaper on the problems that he is stirring. Such a proposition does not seem appropriate to me. His invitation to enter into a written debate with him in the Diario de Coimbra would certainly provoke a controversy or a 'you tell me, and I tell you' that will not convince M. Alvares nor make me change my position. Instead of being enlightened, readers will end by being even more confused and perhaps scandalized. 'See how they love one another!' some would say and 'How they fight one another!' others would comment. I do not wish to take part in a dialogue-spectacle which can only be degrading given the invective and provocation M. Alvares hurls against what he calls the Coimbra episcopate.
"I think it would be prudent, Christian and sacerdotal on my part to continue to invite M. Alvares for a personal meeting which will surely be more fruitful for both of us than a public debate between persons unknown to each other. You will agree, Sir, that in these circumstances since it is I who have taken the initiative for a personal dialogue, you should no longer allow M. Alvares to heckle me in your paper."
This was not an opinion shared by the Editor since the Diario de Coimbra published two further letters from M. Alvares: the first on November 26 and the second on December 23. Here are what seem to us the decisive extracts:
"Contrary to what Father Freire declares, I have absolutely no wish to make a scene or provoke a scandal. What I do not want in any way at all is to be an accomplice in the process of exploiting the Fatima message. If I solicit a dialogue, it is because the 'ecumenical Church' spends its time saying that dialogue resolves everything. Do they not dialogue with heretics and atheists or those who follow the latest trends in pastoral matters? If pointing out the hierarchy's deviations is a degrading sight in many respects, the degradation does not affect the one who remarks on it but the one who practices it. It is easier to accuse me of hurling constant invective against the episcopate than it is to deal with the problems I raise. I have posed only two questions to Professor Freire in his capacity as a Fatima specialist." They are important and grave questions. For "if in two or three years' time, it is visible that Russia is not converted" given that "the consecration of Russia has not really been done", the men of the Church will have acquired a reputation for lying under pressure from the Pope and the bishops who had ordered that there be no contestation of their Ostpolitik of the time!"7 and he concluded: "I would indeed like to believe that Russia is actually being converted because the Pope acceded to Our Lady's request. But I cannot, because it is not true."
Undoubtedly, Professor Freire would come out of that controversy confounded. For if his point of view were defensible in the light of the Fatima documents and if he could have referred to the testimony of Sister Lucy, Father Freire, although despairing of being able to convince M. Alvares, would clearly have criticized his contradictor's demonstrations to enlighten the readers of the Diario de Coimbra. His refusal to discuss M. Alvares' arguments in public shows it is impossible for him to justify the official thesis whereby the consecration of Russia was done on March 25, 1984, for the decisive reason that such a thesis is unjustifiable.
1. Cf. Fatima, Joie Intime, Événement Mondial, page 391. Soon to be published in English.
2. Cf. ibid., page 374-378.
3. Quoted by the weekly O Jornal, October 18, 1991, and by Mensagem de Fatima, no. 187, November 1991.
4. The Portuguese weekly O Jornal, October 18, 1991.
5. B. Lemaire, Fatima-Moscow "direct", ed. Téqui, November 1991, page 11.
6. The review Chrétiens de l'Est. no. 72, 4th quarter 1991, page 34.
7. We fear that, even more than the experts, the bishops and the Pope, it is the very apparitions and revelations of Fatima that will then be discredited in the eyes of the faithful, deceived by all the poisonous campaigns during these last years.