On May 12th, the day before the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions at Fatima, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a special gathering at the United Nations in NYC entitled, THE CENTENARY OF FATIMA AND THE ENDURING RELEVANCE OF IT’S MESSAGE OF PEACE. It was a most rewarding experience. The Fatima apparitions have been the beginning of so many changes in the 20th century. They began on May 13, 1917 just as Europe was immersed in WWI, a very devastating war and supposedly the “war to end all wars”. It was also the year of the Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Communist threats to the world. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherd children in a remote region of Portugal and gave a message of the need to turn to Jesus, do penance, and pray in order to keep further horrendous wars away. Her message was filled with Hope and Love but also quite disturbing in showing the way the world was headed. She was concerned with bringing Peace and Hope and Eternal Life to all of the peoples of the world by having them follow Jesus.
The conference itself looked at the message of Fatima and what had occurred since then. There is still a great need for peace in our war torn world. The threat of communism seems to be gone, but there are many other threats to world peace. The conference had five speakers and lasted about two hours. I would like to give a brief synopsis of what each speaker said. There is no doubt that this 100 year old message from the Blessed Virgin Mary is still very relevant to us today. All of the speakers were excellent in their content and in the emotional attachment to what they were saying. Tears flowed from both men and women as they spoke. I was impressed by the dedication of each speaker.
Archbishop Bernadito C. Auza opened the conference and was the mediator. He is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. His topic was “The Lessons of the Fatima Message of Peace for the Cause of Peace Today”. The Archbishop recounted what had happened at Fatima and how it had led to many changes in the world. He told the story of Pope John Paul II’s dedication to Fatima and how the Pope was very instrumental in the collapse of communism in Europe and in Communist Russia itself. The Archbishop reflected the call for hope but also the need for continued conversion. He was very pastoral in his tone, and appears to be an excellent representative of the Church to the United Nations.
Johnnette Benkovic was the second speaker. Johnnette is the foundress and president of Women of Grace. She is also an author and TV and radio host. She is an excellent speaker and her topic was, ‘Mary and the Dignity of Women’s role in a Culture of Peace”. Johnnette did an excellent job of reminding us how women, who by their very nature are life giving and protecting, must work hard for peace. She did say that women are not always fulfilling this role of working for peace and must step up to do so. She definitely believes that women can be very instrumental in helping bring about peace.
Dr. Andrea Bartoli was the third speaker. He is currently the Dean of the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. His topic was “The Importance of Religious Leaders Serving as Examples of Peace, Tolerance, Solidarity and Justice”. Dr. Bartoli shared several stories from his work in various nations to deal with the ravages of war. He was quite emotional in sharing some of the things that happened to the people he was trying to help. There was no doubt that this man is a man of faith and compassion who has worked hard to foster peace (he is an expert in conflict resolution) and to help those who suffer because of a lack of peace. He challenged all, especially those who are religious leaders, to work hard for peace and to help those who are suffering from a lack of it. His call was basically to be like Jesus. We need more diplomats like him.
Dr. Maria Santos Pais was the fourth speaker. She is the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children. Her topic was, “Children as a Zone of Peace”. Dr. Pais is from Portugal and it was apparent that she was well aware of the Fatima story. She also seemed well aware of the terrible things that are happening to children throughout the world today. Some of the statistics that she gave us were quite disturbing. Dr. Pais was very clear in showing us that children are peacemakers, but unfortunately are often victims of the lack of peace. She gave a very emotional talk. Please pray for the children of the world.
The Shepherd Children of Fatima to whom Mary appeared. Pope Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto Saints as he celebrated the 100th anniversary mass in Fatima. Lucia only died in 2005 and her cause is pending.
Dr. Anna Halpine was the fifth and last speaker. She is the Foundress and CEO of the World Youth Alliance. Her topic was, ‘The Fatima Shepherd Children: the Role of Children in the Cause of Peace”. Dr. Hapline did an excellent job of showing how these poor shepherd children responded so well to the call of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She continued talking about children of the world living in such difficult situations. Her talk was very complementary to the previous talk given by Dr. Pais. The last two speakers helped us all to focus on those who suffer so much from a lack of peace, the children. It is so sad to think that we have created a world where children suffer so much.
In review, the conference was very much like the original message of Fatima. It is disturbing in pointing out what mankind has done by war and by a lack of peace. It also pointed out that we must work hard to accomplish peace. There is hope, but we must actively seek it and work for it. Â The message of Our Lady is very appropriate today. We must seek Jesus, pray and do penance and work hard for peace. Having this conference take place at the United Nations was quite encouraging. The Statue of Fatima was brought there for this conference and then brought over to the Church of the Holy Family nearby. This is the second visit of this statue to the United Nations. It first came to the UN in 1952. The Blessed Virgin Mary is most definitely the Queen of Peace. May peace come forth to this world and may all peoples receive the gift of heavenly peace. I end with the prayer that Mary taught at Fatima; O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen…
The Statue at Holy Family Church near the United Nations