THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT FATIMA VOLUME II
THE SECRET AND THE CHURCH
2.4 A Triple Miracle: Portugal, “Showcase of Our Lady” (1931 - 1946)
«To express what has been going on here for twenty-five years, the Portuguese vocabulary has but one word: miracle.» Cardinal Cerejeira spoke these words on May 13, 1942, during the jubilee celebration of the apparitions. «Yes, we are firmly convinced that we owe the wonderful transformation of Portugal to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin.» 1
I. A MIRACLE OF CONVERSION:
AN ADMIRABLE CATHOLIC RENAISSANCE
This miracle of conversion was not something affirmed by the historians later on, in hindsight and after poring over the statistics. No, it was so evident that it even appeared to people of that time as a wonderful, unquestionable work of God. We must quote here the priceless testimony of Cardinal Cerejeira. He was pleased to recall that it was the sight of so many conversions that finally led him to believe in the apparitions of Fatima:
«I was one of those who did not believe in the miracle at the beginning. To me it seemed like a bad counterfeit of Lourdes. At the time I was at Coimbra, not far from Fatima, a professor at the Faculty of Letters at the University, where I taught history. People discussed the event passionately, but it did not interest me. I did not even read the accounts in the newspapers at that time, although the subject was of burning interest.
«Fatima, however, managed to overcome both the prudent reserve of the Church and the violent opposition of the jacobin government at that time. The pilgrimage continually grew. It produced more and more conversions of unbelievers, and there was talk of healings... From my house, tucked away in a corner of the university, when the twelfth and thirteenth would come during pilgrimage months, I would see continual processions of automobiles lasting for hours.
«This enthusiasm, which increased from year to year, although it lacked all external help, and was even opposed, along with the knowledge of miraculous facts and the abundance of spiritual fruits, began to shake my indifference...
«In 1928, I was elevated to the episcopate and assigned as auxiliary to my predecessor Cardinal Mendes Belo, Patriarch of Lisbon. There I began to see the fervour aroused in the parishes by devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Some of my colleagues in the episcopate used to say to me: “Go to Fatima, sit down in a confessional and you will see.” Really, the Pentecost of conversions was obvious. As for myself, I will always remember a former fellow student at the Lyceum, a raving anticlerical who would go so far as to vociferate in the streets (against the clergy). About that time he came looking for me, to tell me that he had been converted at Fatima...» 2
The Cardinal never ceased repeating that it was the miracle of conversions at work in Fatima – a miracle greater than the resurrection of the dead – which opened his eyes to Fatima. 3
We would need a whole book to do justice to the extent of the religious renewal which Portugal experienced at that time. We will only give one proof, a proof which alone is sufficient because it never deceives: priestly and religious vocations. This is the infallible mark of the vitality of a Church, as John XXIII rightly observed.
THE SEMINARIES were filled at an astonishing speed. We can be brief because the figures are eloquent and dispense us from all commentary. In 1917, there were eighteen seminarians in the diocese of Portalegre. In 1929, when the bishop visited Pope Pius XI, there were one hundred and twenty, and four years later, in 1933, there were two hundred and one! In the little diocese of Leiria, at the arrival of Bishop da Silva in 1920, the seminary was closed. In 1933, it already numbered seventy-five seminarians. In the Catholic bastion of the North there was a veritable explosion of vitality. In 1933, there were four hundred and seventy-eight seminarians for the diocese of Braga alone! 4
AND THE PRIESTS? The increase in their ranks is proportionate to the increased number of seminarians, which proves the good order and fervour of the seminaries, which were capable of leading the great majority of their students right up to the priesthood. Here the figures for 1917 must be compared with those of 1933. Here are the figures for 1933 and 1964, which if nothing else show that the renewal stirred up by Fatima was not a flash in the pan: in 1933, the diocese of Braga numbered 2618 priests. It had 3188 in 1964. The province of Lisbon went from 950 priests to 1603. Even in the province of Evora in the South, the most dechristianised region of the country, the clergy still grew by about a hundred priests: 180 in 1933, 277 in 1964. On the average during these thirty years, the number of priests increased by twenty-five percent. 5
AS FOR THE RELIGIOUS, who were expelled by the revolution of 1910, and legally prohibited right up until 1926, counting all orders there were 370 for the entire country. By 1941, the Jesuits already numbered over 300, and the Catholic yearbook indicated a total of 1,321 professed religious. In other words, the number of religious almost quadrupled in ten years!
THE INCREASE IN RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES follows the same ascending curve. The example of the Dorothean Sisters, who welcomed Lucy, is significant. In 1917, they had just one establishment in Portugal, that of Asilo de Vilar, where the religious had been able to stay while donning secular clothes. «By 1934, they possessed fifteen great educational or charitable houses; and other foundations followed after that.» 6 The example of the “Sisters of Reparation of Our Lady of Sorrows of Fatima” should also be cited. This is the congregation founded by Canon Formigao. In short, orders of women experienced a magnificent restoration, in happy contrast to the sad years of the revolutionary torment. In 1941, Portugal numbered 3,815 professed nuns, and their number continued to grow right up until the recent decadence, whose causes we shall have to examine later on.
THE GREAT RENEWAL OF CHRISTIAN LIFE, of course, had many other aspects: development of the Catholic press, and radio, with the Catholic radio station “Radio Renaissance”, various pilgrimages, spiritual retreats, not to mention the success of a Catholic Action which had a colour all its own: firmly integrated into the framework of diocesan and parish life, consecrated by the bishops to the double cult of Christ the King and Our Lady of Fatima, it bore very little resemblance to Catholic Action in France or Belgium, which were supposedly specialised, but above all laicised, democratised, and already somewhat Marxist. The mere title of the great movement canonically erected in 1934 as an auxiliary to Catholic Action in Portugal gives away its spirit: “ The Pious Union of Crusaders of Fatima”, which quickly garnered five hundred thousand members! Devotion and crusade, these were the two great poles of spirituality preached then, and with the greatest success! Without yet knowing it, the Church was living fully the spirituality of the Secret of Fatima, and the people were as fiercely (and lucidly!) anti-communist as they were ardently devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The two go together, for there is no true love of God without the hatred of Satan and his work in the world, and the effective desire to snatch from him, through a crusade, the multitude of poor souls enslaved by his domination.
To stir up «this admirable and prodigious renewal of religious life in souls» (the expression is Cardinal Cerejeira’s), 7 Our Lady of Fatima did not come to teach “new methods of the apostolate, more adapted to the modern mentality and culture.” No, She came to recall in all its vigour the most traditional Catholicism, that of the Gospel, the Catholicism of a St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort or a Saint Maximilian Kolbe, right in our twentieth century. This Catholicism consists in the love of God and the hatred of Satan, meaning the love of the Cross and tender devotion to Mary, contempt for the world and self-renunciation, prayer and sacrifice, in short the divine eternal Wisdom in all its vigour, in all its force, and with all its supernatural attractions. This is the religion that converted and transformed Portugal to the point that in 1942, Cardinal Cerejeira could declare to a French journalist: «In the whole country, you could hardly manage to gather a handful of enemies of religion.» 8 However, a few did indeed subsist, but since their social influence had become strictly proportional to their tiny number, they were neither persecuted nor molested, and they no longer counted.
“Miracle!” the bishops kept repeating during the jubilee of the apparitions in 1942: They declared:
«Anybody who would have closed his eyes twenty-five years ago and opened them now would no longer recognise Portugal, so vast is the transformation worked by the modest and invisible factor of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima. Really, Our Lady wishes to save Portugal.» 9
II. A MIRACLE OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL RENEWAL
To save Portugal more effectively and durably, Our Lady of Fatima was not content with converting souls by leading each one to God individually. No, She wished to make this land of Portugal which was consecrated to Her once more, a real country of Christendom again, where social and political life itself would be completely permeated by the great light of the faith and the energies of divine grace, through the ministry of the Church.
Pope Pius XII was not afraid to describe in eloquent terms this radical change in national life, designating Our Lady of Fatima as its original and true cause:
«In a tragic hour of darkness and distress, when the ship of the State of Portugal, having lost the guide of her most glorious traditions and driven off her course by anti-Christian and anti-national currents, seemed to be running for certain shipwreck, unconscious of present or future dangers whose gravity no one could humanly foretell; in that hour, Heaven, which foresaw these dangers, intervened, and in the darkness light shone; out of chaos order reigned; the tempest abated and faithful Portugal can renew her glorious traditions as a crusading and missionary nation...
«All honour to those who have been the instruments of Providence in this glorious enterprise!» 10
This enterprise, which Salazar conducted with such clarity of purpose and courage, was in fact nothing less than an authentic restoration of Christendom. Again let us quote Pius XII, who said of the Portuguese one-man-ruler: «I bless him with all my heart, and I cherish the most ardent desires that he be able to complete successfully his work of national restoration, both spiritual and material.» 11
The national restoration succeeded because it was first of all firm on principles. Salazar had a doctrine: a doctrine of Counter-Revolution, drawn from the best sources of the French masters, from Joseph de Maistre to La Tour du Pin to Charles Maurras. Only this doctrine was capable of saving his people from the Bolshevik Revolution. 12
THE IMMACULATE VIRGIN AND THE REVOLUTION. Let there be no mistake. On May 13, 1931, fulfilling the requests of Heaven, the Portuguese bishops consecrated their country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that She might save it from communism which was taking root in Spain. It is not enough to say that it was She who worked this miracle of peace. We must describe how She did it, what means She used. For it would be unrealistic and childish to imagine that Heaven could intervene in political events against the course they naturally would have taken, preserving Her people from the peril of the revolution, while leaving the country in the hands of a government which was moving full speed ahead towards that revolution.
If, as She announced in Her Secret, it is by the Communist Revolution that Satan in our century spreads the errors that seduce nations, provoking wars and persecutions which ravage the world – when She wishes to save a people from this pestilence, She does it quite openly, raising up the only effective remedy: a true Catholic counter-revolution.
« THE NEW STATE» AGAINST THE REVOLUTION
Since 1928, the influence of Salazar within the government had progressively grown. On July 5, 1933, he became President of the Council. From then on, in spite of the republican appearance of the institutions, as head of the government he took sovereign direction of the nation. Prudently, slowly, but with invincible tenacity, he put his program into practice. What was this program? It was first of all and resolutely counter-revolutionary. This is what gave it its force and allowed the New State to subsist, rebuild and restore. 13
“THE GREAT HERESY OF OUR TIME”: COMMUNISM. With a farsightedness rare for his time, Salazar denounced communism not as a resurgence of totalitarianism or enslavement or expansionism, of which Czarist Russia was commonly accused. No, he perceived that the evil was not Russia, but only anti-national communism. He wrote:
«In reality, Russian communism today represents neither a political regime nor an economic system: it is a doctrine, a religion. Through the mediation of its apostles and revolutionary agents, it pretends to replace by other conceptions those which the majority of civilised peoples have received more or less directly from Rome and Christianity, and this for the entire world. But it seems that very few realise to what extent the principles of the one and the other are irreconcilable.» 14
In other words: it is clear that for Salazar communism is anti-civilisation, anti-Christian, anti-Church and anti-Christ.
Communism is the revolution in its very essence:
«Communism is the synthesis of all the traditional revolts of matter against spirit, and of barbarism against civilisation. It is the “great heresy” of our time... It tends to the subversion of everything, and in its destructive fury, it does not distinguish error from truth, good from evil, justice from injustice. Of little importance to it are the history and centuries-old experiences of humanity, the life and dignity of the intellect, the purest sentiments of the family, the honour of woman and her modesty, or the existence and grandeur of nations, as long as with its false conception of humanity it can succeed in man’s enslavement and his worst subjection.» 15
What head of State, what prince of the Church spoke about communism this clearly in 1936, even before the war in Spain broke out? As we will see, even Pope Pius XI himself had not yet done so, unfortunately for the Church and for Europe.
“AGAINST ALL THE GREAT HERESIES OF OUR TIMES.” But Salazar wisely did not stop at merely denouncing the communist peril only. If communism is the quintessence of evil, it is because it is the synthesis of all “the heresies” which have preceded it, prepared it and assured its victory.
Salazar did not commit the error of rising up against communism in the name of the Rights of Man and the absolute dignity of the person. No, it is because it destroys the family, undermines the country and wants to suppress God that communism is “intrinsically perverse”, as Pius XI was to say a year later. Salazar had understood this and explained it to eighty thousand Portuguese people who acclaimed him at Braga, in May 1936:
«We are thus against all the internationalisms, against communism, against socialism, against libertarian trade-unionism, against everything which diminishes, divides or dissolves the family, against the class struggle, against those who are nationless and godless, against the slavery of work, against the purely materialistic conception of life, against force as the origin of law. We are against all the great heresies of our times...» 16
On the following page, he completes the list: « We are anti-parliamentarian, anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and we want to constitute a corporate State.»
ANTI-DEMOCRATIC AND ANTI-PARLIAMENTARIAN? Yes, because «parliamentary democracy has resulted everywhere in instability and disorder...» Because liberal democracy «has deprived us of some of the liberties we possessed and has shown itself incapable of assuring us of those which we were able to obtain. We are anti-democratic because our democracy, which in appearance depended on the people and claimed to represent it, reached the point where it remembered the people only at the moment of the elections; while as for us we want to elevate the people, educate them, protect them, and snatch them from the slavery of the plutocracy.
«If concern for the people occupies our heart and if we are the defenders of its continual ascent in the material and moral order, this in no way implies an obligation for us to believe that the origin of power is found in the masses, and that the government can be the work of the multitude and not of an elite upon which it is incumbent to direct the people and to sacrifice itself for them.» 17 As Gonzague de Reynold said, Salazar bore his power «like a Christian carrying his cross.»
ANTI-LIBERAL? «We are against the great heresies of our time especially since we have never seen any evidence that the liberty to propagate such heresies has ever been a source of good; this liberty which is being granted to the barbarians of modern times serves only to undermine the foundations of our civilisation. 18
«As far as we might be able to go in our tolerances towards the doctrinal divergences which on different points divide men, we are forced to say that we do not recognise any liberty against the nation, against the common good, against the family, against morality. On the contrary, we want the family and the school to indelibly imprint upon souls these high and noble sentiments which characterise our civilisation, and the profound love of our country, as well as those who formed it and caused it to grow in the course of the ages.» 19
In this spirit, Salazar dissolved Freemasonry in 1935. Freemasonry had continually fomented plots, perpetrated assassination attempts, and strove with all its might to overthrow the new State, to throw Portugal into the revolutionary struggle on the side of Red Spain. 20 A symbolic event: on December 18, 1937, the “Portuguese Legion”, charged with spreading the nationalist and Catholic ideal of the new State, installed itself in the building of “Gremio Lusitano”, the former headquarters of all-powerful Freemasonry. 21
« WE WANT TO CONSTITUTE A CORPORATE STATE»
The counter-revolution is only the negative side, but it is the first and indispensable step of the great work of restoration to be undertaken. All of Salazar’s writings and actions lead us to declare that he conceived this restoration exactly as Saint Pius X did. The holy Pope stated:
«No, civilisation is not something to be invented, nor is the new city to be built in the clouds. It has existed and still does; it is Christian civilisation, the Catholic city. It needs only to be restored and continually renewed upon its natural and divine foundations...» 22
Do not the great principles which Salazar proposes to us as foundations of the whole political edifice correspond to this ideal? The reader may judge for himself:
“GOD, COUNTRY, AUTHORITY, FAMILY, WORK.” «To souls torn by the doubt and negativism of this century we have tried to restore the consolation of the great certitudes. We have not put God or virtue open for discussion; we have not put our Homeland and its history open for discussion; we have not put authority and its prestige open for discussion; or the family and the morality proper to it, or the glory of work and the duty of working. 23
«... We want to construct the social and corporate State in close relation with the natural constitution of society: families, parishes, municipalities, corporations...»
To defend and restore these elementary societies that compose the nation, to represent them effectively with the government, such is the major concern animating Salazar’s entire social policy. It is a Christian concern, which aims at nothing other than restoring the age-old Catholic order which once brought about the grandeur of Christendom.
For Salazar was very careful not to propose any half-baked ideal to his people. Catholicism, he said, can be replaced only by «vile counterfeits». From such pseudo-ideals he managed to jealously preserve his people, especially the youth. Concerning certain young nationalists he said:
«They wanted to live an intense, frenetic life. The grandiose and tumultuous demonstrations of German or Italian life, the style of Hitler or Mussolini, fascinate their imaginations. They wish that I could inflame them with a sort of sacred hatred, that I pit them fiercely against their enemies! This is not my goal: I want to normalise the nation.»
On another occasion he said to Henri Massis:
«We are living in lies, hyperboles. Great, systematic attempts are made to sow confusion in the soul of people, at the risk of handing them over to a fatal consumption!»
What clairvoyance, just two years before the slaughters of the World War! Salazar continues:
«For me, I have only one goal... What I propose is to bring Portugal permanently to life!» 24
What wisdom! At the moment when everywhere Europe was being delivered over to fire and blood in the name of the most deadly policies transformed into a religion, the religion of the Rights of Man and democracy, or the religion of the State, of race and of blood – Salazar simply applied himself to procuring for his people this “tranquillity of order” which is the definition of peace. He saw his role exactly as Saint Paul defines it: the Apostle requests prayers «for kings and all those entrusted with authority, that we may lead a calm and peaceful life in all piety and dignity. For this is what is good and pleasing to God...» 25
This is Salazar’s ideal. Hence his misgivings towards too hasty an industrialisation and modernisation of life, and his hatred of the frenzied materialism of modern life:
«We want to preserve at any price, from this wave that is falling over the world, simplicity of life, purity of morals, gentleness of sentiments, the equilibrium of social relations, this modest but noble family atmosphere which is proper to Portuguese life.» 26
But the national heritage is not just “this old patriarchal spirit” which efforts must be made to maintain, it is also a whole glorious past, it is the crusade, it is the great monarchs of the colonial and missionary epoch. And Salazar never fails to exalt this great Catholic and royal tradition which he wants to renew. 27
« THE CHURCH AND THE STATE HAPPILY COOPERATING»
This beautiful formula which we borrow from Saint Pius X in his “Letter on the Sillon”, 28 expresses exactly what the reality was in Portugal for forty years.
Mutual help, concord and harmony, but never servile dependence, either in the sense of a caesaropapism which makes the Church a vassal to the political power, or in the sense of a clericalism which makes the Church intervene in strictly political decisions where neither faith nor morals are at stake.
Salazar detested all intrusion of the State in the affairs of the Church. He considered this the great lesson to be learned from the sad experience of the nineteenth century with its concordats. 29 Before anything else he wished to leave the Church full and entire liberty of action, and not to enslave it on the pretext of coming to her aid materially. In Portugal, the clergy did not receive a salary from the State.
Moreover, to avoid a revival of anticlericalism, which was still virulent in a whole section of the city population, Salazar preferred to go very slowly. He did not want to give too much of a provocative ostentation to the clearly Catholic orientations of the new State. Thus a Concordat was not signed with the Holy See until 1940.
THE CONCORDAT OF MAY 7, 1940. Curiously, in this accord, the Catholic religion is not recognised as the official religion of the Portuguese State, and therefore in theory the separation of Church and State remains. We do not intend to go into this difficult debate here, which caused so much ink to flow in Portugal.
If perhaps this Concordat is not as doctrinally perfect as it might have been, it still guaranteed the Church a complete liberty, and on various points brought new and judicious solutions.
Thus on the subject of religious teaching: it is permitted to teach in all schools «the Catholic religion and morals to students whose parents or guardians have not requested to be dispensed from this teaching» (art. 21). 30 And it makes it clear that «in no case can this teaching be given by persons not approved as suitable by the ecclesiastical authority.»
With complete liberty, and besides that, subsidies granted to parochial schools, how could the Catholic education of all the youth be better favoured?
Another remarkable point: the legislation on marriage. «The Portuguese state recognises the civil effects of marriages celebrated according to canonical laws.» Similarly in cases of annulments, the State recognises the decisions of the Church (articles 22 & 25). Better still: «In harmony with the essential properties of Catholic marriage, it is understood that by the very fact of the celebration of a canonical marriage, the spouses renounce the legal right to ask for a divorce, which consequently cannot be applied by civil tribunals to Catholic marriages.» (art. 24)
This wise measure, it must be said, greatly contributed to the spiritual renewal of Portugal. Why? Because the number of Catholic marriages, far from diminishing due to the clause excluding the possibility of a future divorce, on the contrary steadily grew. In 1930, canonical marriages were 70.3 percent of the total. In 1960, they were 90.6 percent! Clearly, the number of divorces also diminished in proportion. At Braga, in 1960, no more than 0.6 percent of the marriages were civil ceremonies. 31
In the very text of the Concordat, we could cite many other examples of the effective help which Salazar’s State gave to the work of the Church, for the salvation of souls. Let us cite only the “Missionary Accord” which completed and added precisions to the Concordat for the territories of the immense Portuguese Empire. It is a magnificent text in which everything is conceived for the maximum development of the Catholic missions. Thanks to the help of the State, the missions could enjoy a practical monopoly on educational and charitable works in all the colonies of the country. Subsidies even for seminaries and novitiates, gratuitous concessions of necessary land, reimbursement of travelling expenses, pensions for all the personnel of the mission – nothing was forgotten which might favour the extension of the Kingdom of God.
This then is the magnificent work of political and social renewal accomplished in Portugal under the standard of Our Lady of Fatima. « Salazar aids Fatima. Fatima aids Salazar», wrote Gerard de Sede, to stir up the indignation of the reader. Little did the poor man realise how right he was! It was exactly as he had said. In his station, and as far as possible, Salazar helped Our Lady of Fatima to save Portugal. But as we shall see, Our Lady returned the favour, helping Salazar face the storms in which, without the help and protection of the Church, he undoubtedly would have foundered along with his whole work, to Portugal’s misfortune.
III. A MIRACLE OF PEACE:
PORTUGAL PRESERVED FROM THE COMMUNIST TERROR (1936-1939)
In one of his discourses to the Portuguese people, Pope Pius XII evoked «the Red Peril, so menacing and so close to you, and yet avoided in such an unexpected manner.» 32
MAY 13, 1936: THE RED PERIL AND THE SECRET VOW OF THE BISHOPS. Since 1934 it was at Fatima, near the sanctuary of Our Lady, that all the bishops of Portugal met each year to follow their spiritual exercises for ten days. When they met in May, 1936, the events in Spain were developing in an alarming manner: the elections of February 16, had been a success for the Frente Popular, foreboding a most ominous future. The Portuguese bishops watched with fright as their neighbouring country was falling into the abyss. Who could preserve their little homeland from this menacing wave of atheistic, antireligious communism? For Moscow’s plan was well known and decided upon: according to Lenin’s plans, communism had to be planted first in the Iberian peninsula. Caught between these two braziers of Russia and Spain, before long all of Europe would go up in flames. 33
«With hearts full of preoccupation and anguish», as Cardiemies of peace do not disarmnal Cerejeira wrote later on, on May 13, 1936, the bishops together made a solemn vow which they kept secret that year:
All of them, at least the bishops of continental Portugal promised «to come on May 13, 1938, to lead the national pilgrimage to solemnly give thanks to the Most Holy Virgin, Mother of God, in the name of the whole nation, if She obtained for Portugal victory over atheistic communism and the benefit of peace...»
As the Cardinal described it, «before separating from each other, more than once we placed our persons and our dioceses under the special protection of the Most Holy Virgin, victorious over all heresies and Protectress of Portugal.» 34
With great foresight, just as in 1931 – by way of contrast remember that in Paris at that time Cardinal Verdier had blessed the Popular Front! – the Portuguese bishops had seen the event coming: on July 13, 1936, two months after their vow, the assassination of the monarchist deputy Calvo Sotelo marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. The great Secret of July 13, 1917, had begun to be fulfilled to the letter: «Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred...»
The threat to Portugal was grave, and humanly speaking it was almost inevitable that the revolutionary contagion spread to the nation. This in fact is what happened.
AN ATTEMPT AT SEDITION. On September 8, 1936, two warships, the dispatcher Albuquerque and the destroyer Dao mutinied to join the Reds in Spain. Salazar firmly ordered that they be bombarded until they either surrendered or sank. He declared: «the ships of the Portuguese Navy may sink but they will never hoist another flag than that of Portugal.» 35
It was a salutary decision. Salutary, because the mutineers were quickly brought to their senses and the nation escaped the conflagration of the Revolution. But let us hasten to add that if Salazar could act so effectively, it was because he had the firm support of a hierarchy which publicly supported him and morally justified his action. Thus the bishops brought up the event in one of their pastoral letters:
«However, the enemies of peace do not disarm. One day the following September, the day dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady – even before the capital perceived the danger – a revolutionary movement got under way, which was quickly snuffed out. Thus Portugal could continue in tranquillity on the path of work and progress...
«And we, whose hands are innocent of all the blood shed in Portugal by the spirit of rebellion, can rejoice unreservedly in the victory of the (social) order in which the Church teaches respect for men, and without which there can be neither progress nor liberty.» 36
On May 13, 1937, in a new pastoral letter in which they vigorously denounced communism and the Satanic hatred animating it, they informed the faithful of their secret vow of 1936, and they mentioned the horrors of the persecution in Spain.
AN ATTEMPT ON SALAZAR’S LIFE. «On Sunday, July 4, 1937, at 10:30 a.m., as Salazar was on his way as usual to the private chapel of a friend’s house, Dr. José Trocado, at avenue Barbosa du Bocage, there was a violent explosion the moment he got out of the car. Ten feet away from the leader of the Government, a powerful bomb hidden in an iron case had just exploded.
«Salazar was not touched, his chauffeur was rendered deaf and nothing more.
«To the passers-by gathering around him, Salazar simply said: “Calm down!” and to his host: “Let’s go to Mass.” After the Mass, when everybody was insisting that he rest, he answered: “No. Since God has not willed that I die, I will work.”» 37
The bishops were quite conscious that their country owed the preservation of interior peace to the political wisdom and energy of Salazar, and were not afraid to recognise it publicly. The assassination attempt, if successful, would have certainly thrown the country once more into trouble and dissensions. In its failure they saw the mark of divine protection. Here is how they recalled the event in their collective letter of 1938:
«A few months go by and in the dark shadows, in cold blood and with a diabolical precision, they plot against the life of the man who, more than anyone else, has the duty of watching over the peace and security of all and who, in the august office of President and revered head of State, has merited so much gratitude from the Portuguese nation.
« But the almighty hand of Providence averted the blow which criminal hands had prepared with such skill and planning, the success of which they thought was scientifically assured.» 38
MAY 13, 1938: THE RENEWAL OF THE NATIONAL CONSECRATION TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY: At the beginning of 1938, the crusade of General Franco was on its way to victory and all danger had finally been averted for Portugal, which fortunately escaped the revolutionary contagion. While announcing the great national pilgrimage of May 13, Cardinal Cerejeira solemnly thanked Our Lady of Fatima for it:
«Having arrived almost at the point of fulfilling our vow, our heart exults with joy seeing that our trust in the Patroness of Portugal has not been disappointed.
«Since Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917... a special blessing of God has descended on the land of Portugal... Especially if we review the two years which have gone by since our vow, one cannot fail to recognise that the invisible hand of God has protected Portugal, sparing it the scourge of war and the leprosy of atheistic communism.
« The blessing of peace which the Church requests so insistently in its liturgical prayers, and which we had confidently requested at Fatima, has been granted to us almost miraculously.» 39
On May 13, 1938, five hundred thousand pilgrims surrounded the country’s twenty bishops who were present at the Cova da Iria. The national consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was renewed, while in all the churches of the country millions united themselves to this act in prayer. As was already the case in 1931, the urgent supplication was combined with thanksgiving: two months earlier Hitler had invaded Austria and the most lucid minds saw the great world conflict tragically approaching. Would Spain and Portugal manage to preserve their neutrality? Nothing was more uncertain. Already during the First World War, the government at Lisbon had been unable to resist the general trend. What would happen then in a new war, where pressure from the belligerents would undoubtedly be stronger? Heaven wished to inform its messenger before the events, so as to add an unquestionable prophecy to the miraculous protection which would be granted to the little nation consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
A WONDERFUL PROMISE OF PEACE
On February 6, 1939, seven months before the declaration of war, Sister Lucy wrote to her bishop, Msgr. da Silva. At the same time she informed him that the war was imminent, she informed him of a miraculous promise: in this horrible war Portugal would be spared because of the national consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary made by the bishops. 40
This is a little known point in the message of Fatima, but one having decisive importance in the eyes of Sister Lucy, who has never ceased to recall it. For example, on August 18, 1940, she writes in a letter to Father Gonçalves:
«The proof that God gives us (Sister Lucy is writing in reference to the request for the consecration of Russia to obtain its conversion and world peace) is the special protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary over Portugal, due to its consecration to Her. Those people whom you write to me about have a good reason to be scared (of the war). All this would have happened to us, had our bishops not paid attention to the requests of our Good Lord, and prayed with all their heart for His mercy and the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.» 41
Sister Lucy made sure to mention this prophecy of peace for Portugal in the letter she wrote to Pope Pius XII on December 2, 1940. This illustrates how important it was to her in the whole message of Fatima. She wrote:
«Most Holy Father, Our Lord promises a special protection to our country in this war, due to the consecration of the nation, by the Portuguese Prelates, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; as proof of the graces that would have been granted to other nations, had they also consecrated themselves to Her.» 42
A more precise, clearer and more firm prophecy could hardly be made. But what actually happened? The prediction was fulfilled to the letter.
PORTUGAL PRESERVED FROM WAR (1939-1945)
If we speak of a “miracle of peace”, it is not through a manner of speaking, merely designating one of those happy events which was unexpected. Indeed here there is much more, and to be convinced of it one need only recall the historical circumstances.
From the beginning of the war the threat was great. A first notable fact which was decisive: it is surely thanks to their Catholic wisdom, which strengthened and doubled their political prudence, that Salazar and Franco escaped all ideological frenzy. They also avoided all territorial ambitions, even those which in themselves were possible or legitimate – take Gibraltar for example! – and all vain hopes of entering the war to profit by it. Franco however, who had obtained his victory over the Reds only thanks to the effective help of Italy and Germany, after being faced with an odious betrayal from the French and English, quite naturally could have entered the war on the side of the Axis. Hitler, moreover, was counting on this participation of Spain in his struggle.
THE FRANCO-SALAZAR AGREEMENT. In the frenzy which suddenly overtook Europe in the name of “the Crusade of the democracies” or totalitarian ideologies, Franco and Salazar were able to keep their composure and consider only the good of their peoples. Overcoming the old antagonism between their two nations, they decided to act together to preserve their neutrality at all costs. This close cooperation, fixing a common policy for the peninsular bloc, was the indispensable condition for the maintenance of peace.
But this cooperation was not enough. The future also depended – especially depended – on the reaction of the belligerents. Could Salazar resist the repeated solicitations of the Allies to occupy the strategic position of the Azores? Would not the age-old alliance with England come into play again, as in 1916-1918?
THE GERMAN THREAT. The danger from Germany was much greater still. When, during the summer of 1940, Franco sent Serrano Suner to Berlin to sound out the positions of the Fuhrer, the news he reported back to Madrid was alarming: the Germans counted on the installation of a base in the Canaries, and German Foreign Minister Ribbentrob envisaged an invasion of Spain if the Spanish refused his requests. 43
To induce Spain to enter the war, Hitler organised the famous interview which took place at Henday, on October 23, 1940. He then explained his plan to Franco: to conquer England he needed to take Gibraltar so as to deny the British access to the Mediterranean and secure for Germany bases which would control North Africa. To this end Hitler proposed an immediate alliance to Franco, with Spain entering the war in 1941.
With extraordinary skill, Franco managed to promise nothing. Of course he provoked the impatience of Hitler and Ribbentrob’s furor. But not to the point of drawing reprisals. His biographer notes that he managed «to avoid the explosion which the Germanic legions would have hurled upon Spain. However this danger remained latent.» 44
A few weeks later, there was new German pressure and a new setback for Germany. Finally, on December 7, 1940, Hitler informed Franco through Admiral Canaris of his plan to launch an assault against Gibraltar. For the operation, which was scheduled for January 10, 1941, he requested free passage for his troops on Spanish territory. The German high command had conceived a detailed plan for the invasion of the peninsula. Portugal was not spared. In fact, to achieve mastery of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and to prevent landings by the British, Portuguese ports would have to be occupied.
“Operation Felix” was to result in the occupation of Portuguese territory. «Marshal Blaskowitz received command of the invasion troops numbering eight divisions; an air force of two thousand airplanes was to be entrusted to General Richthofen. A “Panzer division” under the command of General Schmidt was to launch an attack from Caceres in Spain directly towards Lisbon and Porto to occupy Portugal... The danger was so great that everything was ready for the Portuguese government to transfer its headquarters to the Azores.» On December 31, 1940, Hitler was able to write to Mussolini: «We have made all the preparations to cross the Spanish border on January 10 and to take Gibraltar by mid-February.» 45
Fortunately, Franco once again had the courage and daring to oppose the plan. But what then prevented the Fuhrer from moving forward anyhow, since all his plans were set, he had all the means at that time to fulfil them, and the outcome of the war depended on it? It is a mystery. 46
AN INTERVENTION OF HEAVEN. Without falling into an annoying “coincidentalism”, that is, the tendency to link supernatural events with the vicissitudes of political events in too close and “mechanical” a way – for political events are always complex and subject to chance in their details because they result for the most part from the free will of men – is it not interesting to note that at the very moment when the fate of the peninsula was being decided, at the beginning of December, 1940, Heaven intervened once more?
In fact, at the request of Sister Lucy, all the Portuguese bishops met at the Cathedral of Lisbon on December 8, 1940, on the occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the Kingdom. There they solemnly renewed the consecration of their homeland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 47
AN UNEXPECTED DELIVERANCE. Curiously, after this rebuff from Franco, Hitler hesitated. He thought that perhaps Mussolini would be able to convince the inflexible Spaniards. Thus a meeting between the two took place, but in vain: Franco committed himself to nothing and even managed to get Il Duce to justify his position to Hitler.
Before long, when Germany had to come to Mussolini’s aid in the Balkans, and then mobilise for the eastern front, the most menacing danger was removed for good.
Thus did Portugal and Spain remain at peace, without losing an inch of territory. In 1946, during the great solemnity of the three hundredth anniversary of Portugal’s consecration to the Immaculate Conception and for the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, Pius XII explained to the Portuguese people the supernatural meaning of the peace they had enjoyed:
«The most horrible war that ever desolated the world has raged around your borders but has not crossed them thanks especially to Our Lady, who was watching over you and your leaders from Her throne of mercy, which has been erected here like a sublime watchtower in the centre of the country, and did not permit the war to touch you, giving you only an inkling of the unprecedented calamities from which Her protection preserved you.» 48
“A SPECIAL PROTECTION OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY” (SISTER LUCY). Of course, it would be false to believe that this peace was a pure gift from Heaven, acting alone and without intermediaries. Men and circumstances made it possible. First of all there was the wisdom of Salazar and Franco, 49 and their solid concord which formed the unity of the Iberian bloc. There was also their remarkable diplomatic skill, strengthened by that of Marshal Petain at Montoire. Then finally there was the astonishing blindness of Hitler, who by giving up on control of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean undoubtedly committed his gravest strategic error.
These are secondary causes, all independent of the others, but all contributed to safeguarding the peace. This peace had been predicted by Sister Lucy even before hostilities broke out. It is not arbitrary, therefore, to recognise in it the work of a benevolent Providence and the fulfilment of the promise of Our Lady of Fatima. Her special protection for Portugal, which was consecrated to Her, extended also to Franco’s Spain, purified by the blood of its innumerable martyrs. During this war, and through Sister Lucy, Our Lady had also addressed to Spain Her requests and promises for hastening its religious rebirth and to preserve it from new chastisements. 50
THE MIRACLE RECOGNISED AND PROCLAIMED
The Portuguese, it goes without saying, were fully conscious of the immense grace, the real miracle of peace with which they had been favoured. Let us quote Cardinal Cerejeira once again. On February 11, 1942, speaking in the name of all the Portuguese bishops, he declared:
«Through a true miracle of love, the Mother of God continues to preserve our country and keep it unharmed like a fragile vessel miraculously saved, in the midst of tempests and perils which are apparently insurmountable. Once again, we come to recall to you this debt of gratitude to our glorious Patroness, for the peace which we enjoy – a true miracle which astonishes the world – is to us a testimony and pledge of Her patronage on high.»
«It would be unjust to fail to recognise the vigilant and patriotic action of our rulers... But there is not a single Portuguese person in good faith who does not recognise in our privileged situation a reflection of this light which the Most Holy Virgin came to spread at Fatima... It suffices to contemplate the extraordinary element in all this to feel and recognise that a higher power is at work and that a tender and merciful Heart watches over Portugal with love.» 51
Let us quote the most authoritative testimony from Salazar himself. Far from attributing to himself the merit of preserving the peace, he declared on May 7, 1945, with that discretion and modesty which were usual with him when he expressed his Faith in his official discourses:
«Providence has willed, in its high designs, that we pass through the conflict without being involved in it actively and directly...» He concluded: «Let us bless the victory! I will say nothing more on it. In this hour so solemn, not to say sacred, I feel and sense in me only a strong sentiment of gratitude to Providence for its Mercy, and prayers that its Light illumine the men responsible for the destiny of the world.» 52
Like his friend, Cardinal Cerejeira, or like Pope Pius XII, from whom we will quote some admirable texts from 1942, proclaiming «the atmosphere of a miracle which envelops Portugal», Salazar recognised the apparitions of Fatima as the primary source of all the temporal and spiritual benefits heaped upon his country since 1917. 53
To an American journalist who in 1946 questioned him about Russia, Salazar gave the following response, a remarkable one because it takes us back to the very heart of the Secret of Fatima: «According to what we know of the interior affairs of Russia, a revolution there appears improbable for the moment. But there is a hope for peace: that Providence will do in Russia what it did here, in Portugal.» 54
PORTUGAL, “SHOWCASE OF OUR LADY”
The great design of God for our century was just that: He willed that the Immaculate Heart of Mary convert the immense land of Russia, as it converted in wonderful fashion the little country of Portugal. In the tragic history of our bloody century – polluted and perverted by the errors, wars and persecutions stirred up by the anti-Christ powers of Bolshevik communism and plutocratic and liberal Freemasonry, during more than forty years Portugal has stood out like an island of Christendom restored, full of wisdom and peace. This wonderful miracle lasted exactly as long as the Pastors of the Church remained unanimously faithful to the requests and the Spirit of the message of Fatima, as to a great supernatural charter of the Portuguese rebirth.
If the “Portuguese miracle” has gradually lost its lustre, if it has been sadly obscured for twenty years, it is to the exact extent that the authentic message of the Immaculate Virgin has been betrayed, distorted or forgotten in favour of a new message and another spirit, which have everywhere entailed the decadence of the Church and the ruin of Catholic societies.
However, we must be careful not to project upon the past history the sad vagaries of the present. For the present has not entirely abolished the past and we are certain it will be ephemeral. We must not forget the triple miracle worked by Our Lady in Portugal in response to the Act of Consecration to Her Immaculate Heart by all the bishops of the country. For this is the proof of the all-powerful mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to convert souls and grant peace to the nations. Yes, let us perpetuate the remembrance of these wonders of grace, which made Portugal as it were the “showcase of Our Lady”, to repeat the beautiful expression of the Abbé de Nantes. For Portugal is the striking demonstration of what would have taken place half a century ago throughout the world, if the requests of the Queen of Heaven had been fulfilled at the hour willed by God...
But, because His Mercy cannot be overcome by the tardiness and resistance of men, because His great design «to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary» is irrevocable, the “Portuguese miracle” continues to be a pledge of hope for us:
«Fatima speaks not only to Portugal but to the whole world. We believe that the apparitions of Fatima open a new era: that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
« What has taken place in Portugal proclaims the miracle. And it foreshadows what the Immaculate Heart of Mary has prepared for the world.» 55
(1) Merv. In., p. 326.
(2) Preface to Fatima et les destins du monde, by Canon Barthas, p. 7-8.
(3) Cf. preface to Jacinta, Obras pastorais, Vol. II, p. 330-331; cf. also the preface to Fatima, by G. Renault, p. IX. Read also the moving accounts in Merv. In., p. 231-242.I, p. 85-86.
(4) Cf. Father Serafim Leite, S.J., article “Portugal” in the Dict. de théol. cath., col. 2616.
(5) These two series of figures can be found in the two successive editions of Canon Barthas’ work: Merv. XXs, p. 16 and Fatima 1917-1968, p. 21.
(6) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 283.
(7) Collective Pastoral Letter for the Jubilee of the apparitions in 1942, Merv. XXs, p. 338.
(8) Merv. XXs, p 261.
(9) Ibid., p. 338.
(10) Radio message of October 31, 1942, De Marchi, p. 320.
(11) Gazette de Liège, September 9, 1948, quoted by Ploncard d’Assac, p. 227. Cf. also L’Ordre Français, September-October, 1970, p. 11.
(12) The expression “national revolution”, used by Salazar, should not fool us. If he retained this expression in spite of its ambiguity, it is because he got it from the generals who had saved the country by the coup d’état of May 28, 1926. But he was able, on that occasion, to clarify the sense in which it must be understood, that of a revolution against “the established disorder”: «If I am a revolutionary, it is to the extent that I am... for truth against imposture, for order against disorder, to which this country was only too accustomed.» (Quoted by H. Massis, Chefs, p. 112, Plon, 1939.)
(13) In 1936, for the tenth anniversary of the liberating coup of May 28, Salazar drew up a balance sheet of the work accomplished. This text, which is fifty pages long, is remarkably rich. It surely constitutes the best summary of his program. It was published in French under the title: Comment on relève un État. Flammarion, 1936. We will quote from it under the abbreviation, CRE.
(14) CRE, p.21.
(15) Ibid., p.29.
(16) Ibid., p. 17.
(17) Ibid., p. 19.
(18) Ibid., p. 17.
(19) Ibid., p. 30.
(20) Cf. Léon de Poncins, Le Portugal renaît, Beauchesne 1936, and by the same author: Histoire secrète de la Révolution espagnole, p. 121-123, Beauchesne 1938.
(21) Ploncard d’Assac, p. 150. One of the first decisions of the revolutionaries of 1974, would be to return this building to the Freemasons, who have installed themselves there once more. It is always the same implacable struggle which continues!
(22) Lettre sur le Sillon No. 11, CRC 47, August 1971.
(23) CRE, p. 45.
(24) Henri Massis, Chefs, p. 112 & 99.
(25) I Tim. 2:2.
(26) April 15, 1937. Quoted by Ploncard d’Assac, p. 142..
(27) One must read the admirable discourse for the commemoration of the victory of Aljubarrota, which Salazar ordered to be read in all the schools of the country on August 14, 1935. Le Portugal et la crise européenne, p. 512, Flammarion, 1940.
(28) No. 44, CRC 47, August 1971.
(29) Although the monarchy had become liberal and Masonic, Catholicism still juridically continued to be the State religion, and relations between the two powers were governed by concordats. The result was disastrous. Granted, the State subsidised worship, but on the other hand it interfered with the Church in a scandalous manner. «At that era», Salazar writes, «the Church was united to the State by golden chains»! The religious decadence continued to be accelerated in a serious manner. Salazar, Principes d’Action, p. 69. Fayard, 1956; cf. Ploncard d’Assac, p. 176 sq.
(30) The text of the Concordat and the missionary Accord which completes it is quoted in the Documents pontificaux de S.S. Pie XII, Vol. II, p. 151-168, Saint Augustin publishers. (Saint-Maurice, Switzerland.)
(31) Cf. Anne-Marie Azam-Lafont, La Liberté religieuse au Portugal, p. 147, 181, 186, Doctoral thesis, October 1976, University of Toulouse.
(32) Radiophonic discourse of October 31, 1942.
(33) Cf. Alonso, FER, p. 92.
(34) Excerpts of the pastoral letter of the Portuguese bishops, Easter 1938. Cardinal Cerejeira, Obras Pastorais, Vol. II, p. 141-142.
(35) Ploncard d’Assac, Salazar, p. 137-138.
(36) Collective pastoral letter of Easter 1938, Obras Pastorais, Vol. II. p. 142.
(37) Ploncard d’Assac, op. cit., p. 142-143.
(38) Obras Pastorais, Vol. II, p. 144.
(39) Ibid., Vol. II, p. 142-143.
(40) Here let us quote the testimony of Cardinal Cerejeira, who repeated on many occasions that he had held in his hands Lucy’s letter which had been passed on to him by Bishop da Silva: «I saw the letter in which seven months before the war, this “horrible, horrible” war, which would cover the earth and the sea with blood, was announced as imminent, but where it was promised that Portugal would be spared these horrors because of the consecration which Portugal’s bishops had made to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.» May 30, 1948 (Merv. XXs. p. 343). Cf. in 1955, FDM, p. 10; in 1956, VND, p. 209; in 1967, D.C., March 19, 1967, p. 552.
(41) Doc., p. 427.
(42) Doc., p. 437-439. Cf. the first version of this letter, October 24, 1940, the text of which is practically identical on this point, Doc., p. 433.
(43) We follow the work of Claude Martin, Franco soldat et chef d’État, p. 300 sq. Éd. Quatre fils Aymon, 1959.
(44) Ibid., p. 307.
(45) Father Herman Netter, S.V.D., Fatima Chronik, p. 43-44. Grafica de Leiria, 1970.
(46) An article of a Portuguese historian, Joao Vitoria, brings this point to light quite well: “Nossa Senhora de Fatima preservou Portugal da guerra 1939-1945”. Fatima 50, No. 18, October 1968, p. 10, sq.
(47) Alonso, FER, p. 100. In Chapter XI we will quote from the letter which Sister Lucy wrote to Cardinal Cerejeira for this intention, December 1, 1940. Doc., p. 435, 495.
(48) May 13, 1946, De Marchi, p. 329.
(49) Wisdom which must be stressed in the face of calumnies from the a priori hostile, and from ignorance: «It is an astonishing dictatorship where a victorious Generalissimo, a great strategist, capable of conquering even Gibraltar or Tangier, refuses to throw his country into the adventure and resists the solicitations of successive conquerors although accompanied by wonderful promises – to end up finally without a catastrophe, in contrast with almost all the others.» Abbé G. de Nantes, CRC 105, May 1976, “La dictature catholique de Franco”, p. 11.
(50) In a later chapter we will describe the messages from Heaven passed on to the Spanish bishops by Sister Lucy.
(51) Collective pastoral letter for May 13, 1942, jubilee of the apparitions. Merv. XXs., p. 337. Cardinal Cerejeira often affirmed this miracle of peace; ibid., p. 342. Cf. VND, p. 209.
(52) Discursos, Vol. IV, p. 95 and 98. Ploncard d’Assac, p. 206-207.
(53) Cf. Castelbranco, p. 173-174.
(54) Ibid., p. 174.
(55) Cardinal Cerejeira, preface to Jacinta, (1942), Obras Pastorais, Vol. II, p. 333. Cf. also his homily of May 13, 1942, Merv. XXs., p. 339.