Speaking aboard the papal plane on the way to Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI said the message of Fatima shows that attacks on the Pope and the Church also come from sins inside the Church. These internal attacks are seen in “a really terrifying way” in sexual abuse, he remarked while calling for penance and purification.
He made his comments to reporters while traveling to Portugal, the site of a 1917 Marian apparition near the town of Fatima. He was asked if the Fatima apparition’s predictions of times of trial for the Church could be applied to the sexual abuse crisis.
In the message of Fatima, Pope Benedict answered, we can discover that attacks on the Pope and the Church “come not only from the outside, but the suffering of the Church comes from inside the Church, from sins that exist inside the Church.”
“This we have always known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way. The biggest weight on the Church doesn’t come from the enemies outside but is born from sin inside the Church.
“And so the Church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice,” he said.
Pope Benedict added that Catholics need to relearn the “essentials” of conversion, prayer and penance.
During his visit to Portugal, the Pope will visit the shrine at the small village of Fatima.
When the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917, she imparted to the seers messages about the violent trials that would afflict the world: war, starvation, and persecution of the Church and the Pope.
The first two prophetic “secrets” revealed at Fatima included a vision of hell, the request for an ardent devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith.
The third “secret,” not revealed to the public until the year 2000, referred to the persecutions that humanity would undergo.
“The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated,” the Virgin Mary said, according to the seers.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict authored a theological commentary on the message of Fatima in 2000.
He wrote that the message of the apparition is “the exhortation to prayer as the path of ‘salvation for souls’ and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.”
Last week, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Pope Benedict planned to deliver an intense message during his visit to the Marian sanctuary at Fatima.