From our archives:

The mystery of Akita, Japan

by Michael H. Brown

       Years ago, back in 1993, Howard Q. Dee, who had been the ambassador from the Philippines to the Vatican, told me something that startled me. The ambassador related that during a visit to Rome in 1990, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had told him that the message from a little-known site of miracles in Akita, Japan, was similar to the third secret from Fatima, which Ratzinger had read, one of the very few who had seen the secret before its dramatic recent release.

       What did Akita have to do with it? Akita is where a nun named Sister Sasagawa recorded a message from the Virgin Mary in association with a wooden statue of the Madonna that miraculoously "wept" on at least 101 occasions, a phenomenon that was put to the scientific test and authenticated by the diocese (the tears were found to be human).  "The fact that Our Lady shed tears is undeniable," the bishop of Niigata, Francis Keiichi Sato, who oversees Akita, wrote me in a fax.  "It is something that occurred over and over between 1975 and 1981, with a great number of eyewitnesses." 

       That meant there was partial and tentative Church approval of Akita. The tears were deemed a miracle. There was no similar authentication, however, of the message -- at least not publicly -- but like Fatima it was a prophecy and it was given to Sister Sasagawa on October 13, 1973 -- anniversary of the Famous sun miracle at Fatima.  

       "My dear daughter, listen well to what I have to say to you," Mary allegedly told the Japanese nun. "You will inform your superior. As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms that will remain for you will be the Rosary and Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the pope, the bishops, and the priests."

      Heavy stuff! The message was fascinating at several levels. First, now that we know the third Fatima secret -- which contains the image of an angel with a flaming sword, poised to set the world aflame -- we see the similarity to Sister Sasagawa's prediction of fire falling from the sky. That was apparently what Cardinal Ratzinger was alluding to, and it seems to hint at nuclear destruction. Fire. Other mystics, including Padre Pio, had also seen fire. 

       But of course the Akita prophecy went much further than Fatima. It predicted a huge cataclysm that would wipe out "a great part of humanity." Greater than the Flood. Quite a prediction! Perhaps it was referring to a nuclear war that the Fatima seer, Sister Lucia dos Santos, herself says would have occurred in 1985 if Pope John Paul II had not consecrated the world (and implicitly Russia) to Mary's Immaculate Heart, as requested at Fatima. Most prophecies are conditional and can be changed through prayer and maybe this was the case with Akita: that a nuclear war it foresaw had been averted by the Pope.

       But no one can say for sure what the Akita prediction relates to, and there are other elements of the message that are perplexing and mysterious. For one thing the Akita message greatly resembles a false version of the Fatima "secret" that was printed in 1963 by a German publication called Neues Europa in 1963, one of several "secrets" declared by Church authorities as fabrications. As the Bishop of Fatima himself said in 1981, "I read them attentively, and although I was convinced this was pure speculation, I contacted the seer Lucy, who confirmed to me that all this was an invention, and had nothing to do with the contents of the message."

      Indeed, the account accompanying the bogus "secret" from Germany contained numerous factual errors and predicted a global holocaust during the second half of the 20th century, which did not happen (unless we consider the year 2000 as the final year of that century). True prophecies are not wrong, and where the real Fatima secret fit on a single handwritten page, the Neues Europa version sprawled over several pages in rambling, non-Fatima-like style.  

      Assuming, as by most indications, the German secret was false, we are left with unsolved questions. First off, why would the Akita message be so similar to the Neues Europa "message," which predicted that "fire and smoke will fall from the sky and the waters of the oceans will be turned to steam -- hurling their foam towards the sky, and all that is standing will be overthrown. Millions and more millions of men will lose their lives from one hour to the next." There would be "desolation in all countries," claimed the false secret -- half of mankind would die -- and there would be such problems in the Church that "cardinals will be against cardinals, and bishops against bishops." 

    That was almost the precise language used in  the Akita message, which stated that "the work of the devil will infiltrate even the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their conferees…churches and altars sacked, the Church will be full of those who accept compromise and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God."

       Why would a message from what seems like an authentic site like Akita resemble a false secret, one denounced by the hierarchy? Had Sister Sasagawa read the Neues Europa message and repeated it unconsciously? Had the same spirit -- good or deceptive -- spoken to both her and whoever devised the Neues Europa secret?

       That's what I mean about mysterious. All I can say is that Sister Sasagawa is a holy, honest nun. At the same time, the Neues Europa "secret" seems an obvious invention. Could it be that the evil one knew what Sister Sasagawa would be told, and tried to pre-empt it, to muddle it with a false secret?

       Who knows. All I know is that it has now become an issue with those who seek to claim that the Vatican is covering up and that the secret released on June 26 was not the real secret, that the German version was the actual message and the version released in June was a whitewash. 

       I'm not sure about that. For decades now those handful of Church officials who read the secret before it was released, as well as Sister Lucia herself, have been hinting that the real third secret would be basically what it turned out to be: nothing as apocalyptical as Neues Europa, but nonetheless a serious warning to mankind. It has all been consistent, despite exotic theories to the contrary. And it is now carried over to Medjugorje -- where the Virgin began to appear the year of the last Akita miracle and where she has dispensed new secrets.