There is an excellent book on Fatima, though now somewhat dated, titled The Sun Danced at Fatima, by Joseph Pelletier, A.A. While it was published without an imprimatur, it contains a laudatory preface by Bishop John Wright.
According to Father Pelletier, it was on July 13, 1917, that the most startling revelations took place.
The contents of that apparition he divides into three parts:
Part I - a vision of hell;
Part II -a prediction of World War II and that the world would be punished with famine and persecution of the church and pope, a request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and for communions of reparation, and promises about Russia’s conversion and world peace;
Part III — unknown.
Father Pelletier goes on to say that the first two parts of the apparition were put into writing by Sister Lucia in her memoirs (1937 and 1941) and given to the bishop of Leira, Jose Alves Correia da Silva. Only in 1942 were these ﬁrst two parts revealed by Cardinal Schuster.
Late in 1943 or early in 1944, Sister Lucia put the third part into writing. What she wrote was given in a sealed envelope to the bishop of Leira on June 17, 1944. The bishop took this envelope and put it unopened into another larger envelope, which he sealed.
Sister Lucia and the bishop agreed that the secret would be opened either upon her death or in 1960 whichever came earlier and communicated to the world. Before Bishop Correia died on December 4, 1957, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked for photocopies of all the Fatima writings of Sister Lucia.
The bishop decided not to open and photocopy the letter in the sealed envelope. Instead he sent it to the congregation through the papal nuncio. Drawing on the research of Father Joaquin Maria Alonso, Pelletier says that Pope Pius XII did not open and read the secret. However, in 1960 Pope John XXIII did open and read the letter in the presence of Cardinal Ottaviani, who also was allowed to read it.
The letter was again sealed and sent to the secret archives of the Vatican. Pelletier says it is not certain that Pope Paul VI read the secret, but Alonso says lie probably did. As Pelletier observes, “the wildest rumours” have circulated about what Sister Lucia wrote. But he says that Cardinal Ottaviani stated all the things that circulate are fantasy. Why did Pope John XXIII decide not to publish what was in the letter? Only Pope John could answer that question, and it does not seem that he gave his reasons to anyone. He evidently thought it would not be beneﬁcial or wise to comment on or to reveal what Sister Lucia wrote. On May 13, 2000, at the beatification Mass of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the other two Fatima visionaries, Pope John Paul II ordered the publication of the so-called third secret of Fatima.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, said that the third part concerned “the war waged by atheist systems against the Church and Christians” and also made reference to the ministry and suffering of a “bishop clothed in white” going so far as to say this person “falls to the ground, apparently dead under a burst of gunﬁre.” The Vatican has interpreted this message in light of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II’s life in St Peter’s Square May 13, 1981.
In conversations with the Vatican and pope, Sister Lucia, the surviving visionary, has conﬁrmed this interpretation. It is important to remember, though, that we are talking here of private revelation. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: Throughout the ages, there have been so-called private revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the church. They do not belong, however, to the i deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s deﬁnitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period in history.