The Controversy Over the Third Secret: Objections and Responses | Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R. | Appendix D from Fatima For Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope
The Third Secret has been dealt with in two chapters in this book. Chapter 8 presented the content of the Third Secret as Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta saw it revealed to them. Chapter 16 presented how Sister Lucia wrote the Third Secret on a separate manuscript and then placed it in a sealed envelope. The chapter also traces what popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II did after reading it.
The Third Secret was first made public at the Beatification Mass of Francisco and Jacinta Marto on May 13, 2000, in the Cova da Iria where the secret was originally revealed to the three children on July 13, 1917. Unfortunately, controversy created by certain objections surrounded the Third Secret almost from the moment it became public. We will look at each main objection separately, and offer a response to each.
Objection: The original Third Secret was written on one sheet of paper.
Many clerics who were familiar with the original text, including bishops who worked with popes John XXIII and Paul VI, said that the Third Secret was written on a single sheet of paper (e.g., Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, who read the Third Secret with Pope John XXIII). 
The controversy came about when on June 26, 2000, the Vatican released a copy of Sister Lucia's handwritten text in a four-page format.  Though there are several possible ways a single sheet of paper can be turned into more than one page (written on both sides, folded and written on multiple sides, etc.) or copied onto more than one page, some critics said that the Vatican copy could not have been made from the authentic text and that some other document exists that contains the real Third Secret.
The Vatican copy of Sister Lucia's handwritten manuscript appears in the document The Message of Fatima prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the introduction, the secretary of the Congregation at the time, Archbishop Bertone, stated: "There is only one manuscript, which is here reproduced photostatically." Sister Lucia herself confirmed the validity of the Vatican text. Archbishop Bertone and Bishop Seraphim de Sousa of Leiria met with Sister Lucia at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, on April 27, 2000. The Archbishop presented two envelopes to Sister Lucia. The first or outer envelope contained the second envelope, which held the Third Secret. Touching it with her fingers, Sister Lucia said, "This is my letter." Then, while reading it, she said, "This is my writing."  When asked if this document was the one and only Third Secret, Sister Lucia answered, "Yes, this is the Third Secret, and I never wrote any other." 
We have additional proof from Sister Lucia that the photocopy of the Third Secret was authentic. She met again with Archbishop Bertone on November 17, 2001. A communique about that meeting carried this most important point:
With reference to the third part of the secret of Fatima, [Sister Lucia] affirmed that she had attentively read and meditated upon the booklet published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [The Message of Fatima] and confirmed everything that was written there. To whoever imagines that some part of the secret has been hidden, she replied: "everything has been published; no secret remains." To those who speak and write of new revelations, she said: "There is no truth in this. If I had received new revelations, I would have told no one, but I would have communicated them directly to the Holy Father." Objection: The text of the Third Secret released by the Vatican contains no words attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The message of the Third Secret was not conveyed in words by our Lady, but in the various visions the children saw. Our Lady spoke simply by her actions, as when she prevented the fire from the flaming sword of the angel from touching the earth and consuming it. Archbishop Bertone explained:
The part of the text where the Virgin speaks in the first person wasn't censored, for the simple reason that it never existed. The text these people talk about just doesn't exist. I am not toeing some party line here. I'm basing my statement on Sister Lucia's own direct confirmation that the Third Secret is none other than the text that was published in the year 2000. Objection: The Vatican's copy of the Third Secret contains no information about a nuclear holocaust, a great apostasy, or the satanic infiltration of the Catholic Church.
This objection is largely the result of the disappointment that some people felt when the Third Secret was finally revealed. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) predicted this disappointment. "A careful reading of the [Third Secret]", he wrote, "will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled." 
The years of waiting for the revelation of the Third Secret combined with the discretion of the Vatican built up in many people's minds the idea that the Third Secret predicted some catastrophe, like a nuclear war, a world-wide natural disaster or a great tribulation within the Church. Some people even developed a "conspiracy mentality", in which they assumed the faithful were not being told the truth about what was going to happen in the Church and in the world. Some critics have accused Vatican officials of publishing a fraudulent Third Secret or of withholding important information. The problem here is that no one has ever seen any other Third Secret of Fatima than the one that has already been released to the public. The burden of proof lies with the critics. They must produce another document or at least reliable witnesses who have seen and read it. At this point none have come forward.
There is one final authority who should be quoted. He is Archbishop Loris Capovilla, who once served as private secretary to Pope John XXIII. He had read the Third Secret along with Pope John XXIII and actually held the manuscript in his hands. Certain people have claimed that he had said there were "two texts" of the Third Secret. However, Archbishop Capovilla made the following clear and definitive statement:
There are not two truths from Fatima, nor is there any fourth secret. The text which I read in 1959 is the same that was distributed by the Vatican. . . . I have had enough of these conspiracy theories. It just isn't true. I read it, I presented it to the Pope and we resealed the envelope. As for the doomsday predictions, we know that a terrible world-wide natural catastrophe or a nuclear war could happen, but that would be the result of our sins. This is why we must heed our Lady's message for prayer and penance. We also know that with the spread of secularism and religious indifference, many Catholics are no longer practicing their faith. But again, the remedy for this is prayer, penance and a fervent Christian life, as our Lady requested at Fatima. As for any triumph of Satan over the Church, this is impossible. Jesus himself said so when he told Saint Peter: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16: 18). It will not be Satan who will conquer, but Jesus with his Immaculate Mother who will crush the head of the serpent.
Objection: The text released by the Vatican is not written in the form of a letter.
Some of the clerics who lived at the time the Third Secret was written mentioned it in terms of a letter, but this was not an emphatic point they were making. The photocopy of the original manuscript released by the Holy See does not have a formal address to the Bishop, however it does have a certain likeness to a letter. The document begins with a title like those in Lucia's memoirs and has a kind of introduction that makes reference to the Bishop:
[title] The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917.Archbishop Bertone said that the point about the document being written in the form of a signed letter is not very important. He said of some of his critics that "they look at everything through the magnifying glass of their own biases. As a result they latch on to the most unbelievable things." 
[introduction] I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine. <
As a final plea, let us set aside our doubts and support our Holy Father in the present struggle with our prayers, our fidelity, our service and our love! This would be very pleasing to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! I am absolutely confident that the Holy Father has fully conveyed Our Lady of Fatima's message to us!
 The Last Secret, p. 63.
 A copy of the 4-page format of the text of the Third Secret can be found in From the Beginning, pp. 251-54, as well as on the Vatican website.
 Message of Fatima.
 The Last Secret, p. 64.
 "Sister Lucy: Secret of Fatima Contains No More Mysteries", Vatican Information Service, Dec. 20, 2001.
 The Last Secret, p. 66.
 " Theological Commentary" .
 "Last Surviving Witness Says Third Fatima Is Fully Revealed", Catholic News Agency, September 12, 2007.
 Message of Fatima.
 The Last Secret, p. 66.
Fatima For Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope
• Fatima For Today -- Electronic Book Download
• Fatima For Today -- Downloadable Audio File
Though the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima took place almost a hundred years ago, Our Lady's call to prayer and penance for the salvation of souls and peace in the world is as relevant now as when first delivered to three Portuguese peasant children in 1917.
At the peak of the First World War, our Lady warned of another worldwide conflict, the rise and spread of Communism, and a terrible persecution of the Church unless people repented of their sins and returned to God. She also requested devotion to her Immaculate Heart and a special consecration of Russia.
Much of what Our Lady of Fatima said was revealed soon after her appearances, but the third and final "secret", which was not a message but a prophetic vision seen by the children, was not unveiled by the Vatican until 2000. Pope John Paul II, who read the third secret while recovering from the attempt upon his life in 1981, believed the vision signified the sufferings the Church had endured in the twentieth century.
Because of the prophetic nature of her messages, Our Lady of Fatima has been the subject of much controversy and speculation. In this book, Father Andrew Apostoli carefully analyzes the events that took place in Fatima and clears up lingering questions and doubts about their meaning. He also challenges the reader to hear anew the call of Our Lady to prayer and sacrifice, for the world is ever in need of generous hearts willing to make reparation for those in danger of losing their way to God.
"In a manner that is most accessible and, at the same time, complete and accurate, Father Apostoli helps us to know the maternal instruction of Our Lady of Fatima and, following it, to know and 'savor', in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the mystery of divine love in our lives." -- Cardinal Raymond Burke
"As was so dramatically obvious during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Fatima in May, 2010, Our Lady's apparitions in 1917 remain powerfully compelling for us today. There she was an evangelist, calling us to prayer, conversion of heart, and penance, pointing to Jesus and repeating her words at Cana, 'Do whatever He tells you.' This book brings it all home." -- Most Reverend Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
"For us, Fatima is a sign of the presence of faith, of the fact that it is precisely from the little ones that faith gains new strength, one which is not limited to the little ones but has a message for the entire world and touches history here and now, and sheds light on this history . . . Even now there is tribulation, in every conceivable form, and power threatens to trample down faith. Even now, then, there is a need for the answer about which the Mother of God spoke to the children at Fatima." -- Pope Benedict XVI
"Learn, live, and spread the message of Fatima! This is the express desire of Pope Benedict XVI. And Pope John Paul II once stated that the message of Fatima was more important now than in 1917! That is why this wonderful book on Fatima is so important. Fr. Apostoli has recaptured this heavenly message of urgency and hope for a new generation. Our world needs the message of Fatima more than ever, and I pray that many people are brought back to Jesus, Mary, and the Church through these pages." -- Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, Author, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy
"Fr. Apostoli's book tells you all you need to know about Our Lady's apparitions to the three children in Portugal in 1917. His brief and objective presentation of the facts surrounding the divine revelation not only informs the mind, but also moves the will to embrace and carry out the message of Fatima-prayer and penance-for the salvation of souls and world peace. The message is clear-pray the Rosary every day and offer up some sacrifices for the salvation of sinners and in reparation for sins against God and the Immaculate Heart of Mary." -- Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., Author, Inside the Bible
Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, has been teaching and preaching retreats and parish missions for several decades. He is considered one of the world's foremost experts on the apparitions at Fatima. He is the author of numerous books, including Following Mary to Jesus and Walk Humbly With Your God. Fr. Apostoli is the vice-postulator for the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. A frequent host on EWTN television, he hosted the TV special "Our Lady of Fatima and the First Saturday Devotion".