As the Church celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions – an international Catholic charity dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need – which was founded in 1947 to provide material and spiritual aid for refugees who were fleeing Communism in Eastern Europe – was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima at the sanctuary in Portugal.
The consecration was carried out by the charity’s founder Father Werenfried van Straaten in 1967, which marked the 50th anniversary of the apparitions.
And, at the age of 87, Father van Straaten returned to the sanctuary of Fatima to concelebrate with Pope John Paul II at the beatification Mass of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three shepherd children of Fatima, on 13th May 2000.
Father van Straaten described how the messages of Fatima influenced both him and the work of charity Aid to the Church in Need – which before the fall of communism focused on helping churches behind the Iron Curtain.
Speaking at the Church of St Agnes Church in St Paul, the state capital of Minnesota, on 5th April 1988, ACN’s founder said: “I saw the danger of communism early on, and the supernatural events at Fatima made me recognise the nature of the danger and the true face of communism – the fundamental denial of God and the persecution of his children.
“It was Fatima that helped me to see through the illusion that communism could change by itself.”
Father Martin Barta, Aid to the Church in Need’s ecclesiastical assistant, highlighted the link between Fatima and communism.
He said: “The year 2017 is marked by great yet completely opposing anniversaries: 100 years have passed since the Mother of God appeared in Fatima in 1917 and the October revolution broke out in Russia.
“These important events in world history also formed the context in which Aid to the Church in Need was founded in 1947.”
Father Werenfried, saw the fight with atheistic communism as echoing the mystical warfare described in the Book of the Apocalypse (also known as the Book of Revelation).
He wrote: “Beyond all the talking of the diplomats at the international conferences, the ancient battle has been raging now for over 70 years that was described by the Apostle John in his vision of the Woman and the Dragon.
“The leader of the hellish spirits is Satan. At the head of the heavenly host stands the Queen of Angels.
“He who said ‘No’ to God is setting out to war against her who said ‘Yes’.
“This is the true meaning of the October Revolution and the only philosophy of history that explains the ultimate causes.”
Father Barta went on to add: “For 70 years, most of the Western world has not been beset by war. However, we cannot truly say that peace has reigned.
“On a number of occasions, Pope Francis has spoken of ‘World War III’, which the world has already entered into ‘piecemeal’.
“Can we still prevent the fires of war from spreading across the entire world? We cannot say.
“But we do know – as promised by Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of the Holy Rosary – that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Aid to the Church in Need is organising a pilgrimage to Fatima in September 2017. It will bring together staff and benefactors from many of the charity’s 23 national offices.