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A door closes on a year and possibly on a 'period of peace'

 by Michael H. Brown

       The look on the Pope's face was unmistakable. As he struggled in a body riddled by Parkinson's to close the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica over the weekend -- a door symbolizing a special jubilee indulgence -- his eyes were steely and his motions as somber as they were determined. This hero of our time -- this Pope who will be remembered centuries from now as "John Paul the Great" -- had obtained an extra year of mercy for mankind, and now it was up to men to respond. 

       The special year was over, and so, possibly, was the "period of peace" prophesied at Fatima. 

       It was back in 1917 that the Virgin Mary had told visionary Lucia dos Santos that if the world was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, Russia would be converted and a "period of peace" would be granted to the world. This was a dramatic statement. At the time the planet was in the midst of World War I and it was to be followed by World War II, the Holocaust, the massacres in the Soviet Union, the wars in the Mideast, the Korean and Viet Nam wars -- and territorial disputes in Africa and Asia and southern Europe that were beyond count.

       Indeed, the past 2,000 years had seemed like nothing but war and rumors of war: city-states in Europe were in constant battles through the centuries, so that at any given time England might be fighting France while Germany was fighting Russia or Russia was fighting the Turks or Spain was fighting England and cities in Italy were invading one another -- such warfare that even papacies were involved in armed conflict.

       But in 1917, the promise was that if the world was consecrated, there would be a period of peace. 

       By 1984 President Ronald Reagan and hard-line Soviet bosses with names like Chernenko and Andropov were staring down each other as the world came the closest it has (closer even than during the Cuban Missile Crisis) to the type of conflict that could have destroyed life on earth.

       But that year, on March 25, 1984, John Paul the Great knelt before a statue of the Fatima Virgin and consecrated the world and implicitly Russia to her Immaculate Heart.     

       The consecration as requested 67 years before at Fatima had finally been done, according to Lucia, now a nun in Coimbra, Portugal. 

       The events that followed were incredible. On May 13, 1984, as one of the largest crowds in the history of Fatima gathered to celebrate the anniversary, a massive accidental explosion at Severomorsk destroyed a third of the Soviet Northern Fleet's stock of surface-to-air missiles, greatly lessening its ability to strike at a time when there had been terrific international tension. And on March 25, 1985 -- precisely a year after the consecration -- Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who would become great friends with the Pope and would oversee the dismantling of the "evil empire," first came to public renown.

       According to Sister Lucia (who was interviewed at her cloister by visiting bishops and cardinals in 1992), a nuclear war set to occur in 1985 was prevented and it was the beginning of a special "period of peace." It's Sister Lucia who says that the "period of peace" began with the fall of Communism.

       For the next 15 years, mankind would see a nearly unprecedented military calm. Although there were occasional (and bloody) battles in Rwanda and Bosnia, these were regional conflicts and during much of this period there was not a single major battle anywhere. 

       It was extraordinary compared to the constant, endless battles that had so marked world history. 

       In the third secret of Fatima was the vision of an angel ready to torch the world with fire, but that fire had been quenched in the vision by a light coming from the Virgin.

       Some believe that John Paul obtained the 2000 Jubilee Year to extend that period of peace. No doubt he did. There was an entrustment of the world to Mary last October, and this may buy yet more time. 

       But there are growing signs of tension, and conversion has never been more urgent. Seers tell us that the world will soon be saddened -- that war will once more rear its ugly head -- unless men turn to God. The signs are all around us. There are 68 conflicts demanding the attention of advisers to President-elect George W. Bush. There are threats from China, indications that animosities in Russia are rising again,  and the distant but growing echo of gunfire in the Mideast, which may one day be the land of Armageddon.

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