VATICAN (CWN) -- Sister Lucia, the final survivor among the three Portuguese children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, has caused a sensation by saying that Pope John Paul II forestalled a nuclear war when he consecrated Russia to May in 1984. Sister Lucia also said that the famous third secret of Fatima, the subject of so much speculation over the years, is not intended for public revelation. Finally, she said that when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev asked Pope John Paul II for forgiveness when the two men met in December 1989. However, the Vatican denied this last report.

      The rare interview with Sister Lucia, scheduled for television broadcast in Spain on Sunday, March 1, also furnished the material for numerous radio and press reports in Europe over the weekend.

      The Vatican press office issued a statement on March 2 contradicting Sister Lucia's report that Gorbachev had "knelt at the Pope's feet and asked for pardon for the sins he had committed during his life." Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the spokesman for the Holy Father, said that report was completely inaccurate.

      Sister Lucia said that the third secret of Fatima was never intended to be made public, but "it is only destined for the Pope and the ecclesiastical hierarchy close to him."

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March 3, 1998 volume 9, no. 44         DAILY CATHOLIC