VATICAN CITY -- The ''third secret'' of Fatima is no doomsday prophecy as many have feared, the Vatican insisted Monday, but can be read as a message of encouragement that humanity can save itself, including from such apocalyptic scenarios as nuclear disaster.
As first disclosed last month by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican reiterated that the proper interpretation of the so-called third secret was a foretelling of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.
Aiming to discourage any more speculation about the last message that three Portuguese shepherd children said they received from the Virgin Mary in 1917, the Vatican made public the entire handwritten text of the secret as set down by the sole surviving witness of the series of visions, Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, now a 93-year-old cloistered nun.
''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,''' the nun wrote. Later, she wrote of the Holy Father that ''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''
In a commentary laying out the Vatican's interpretation of the secret, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope's guardian of orthodoxy, wrote: ''No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled.''
He said a ''careful reading of the text'' will ''probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred.''
However, Ratzinger's commentary did contest suggestions by the Turk who shot the pope, Mehmet Ali Agca, that he was merely an instrument of God's plan.
The pope, shortly after he was shot, said that he believes the hand of the Virgin Mary deflected the attacker's bullet, allowing him to survive.
The first two secrets are said to have foretold the end of World War I and the start of World War II, and the rise and fall of Soviet communism.
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