Ratzinger, Tyconio, and Fatima: An Interpretive Key to the End Times (Abridged Version)

9 Settembre 2022 Pubblicato da Lascia il tuo commento

Marco Tosatti

Dear friends and foes of Stilum Curiae, some readers had asked if it would be possible to have a shorter version of the article published yesterday on Ratzinger, Tyconium and Fatima. The author – whom we sincerely thank – very kindly sent this text. Happy reading.


Ratzinger, Tyconius, and Fatima: An Interpretive Key for the End Times

By A Marian Soul

It is no easy task to understand the present crisis of evil within the Church, which at times may seem overwhelming. Benedict XVI has indicated that the theology of Tyconius can assist the Church in understanding how to expose and ultimately defeat the evil of “false brethren” who lie hidden within her. Tyconius’ insights overlap in various ways with the message of Fatima. If we consider Benedict’s comments about Fatima in light of the Tyconian theology of the end times, we are offered a unique perspective on the nature of the Church and the antichurch during their final confrontation.



“The bishops do, under the guise of a gift of the church, what advances the will of the devil.”


– Tyconius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 4th century


“[T]he Antichrist belongs to the Church, grows in it and with it until the great discessio, which initiates the final revelatio.”


– Joseph Ratzinger, Observations on Tyconius’ Concept of the Church, 1956


It is not possible for the Church to survive if it passively defers the solution of the conflict that tears apart the ‘two-part body’ to the end of time.


– Giorgio Agamben, The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End Times, 2013


During his General Audience on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI made a remarkable reference to an obscure ancient Christian writer from North Africa, Tyconius. In his commentary he [Tyconius] sees the Apocalypse above all as a reflection of the mystery of the Church. Tyconius had reached the conviction that the Church was a bipartite body: on the one hand, he says, she belongs to Christ, but there is another part of the Church that belongs to the devil.”[i]

For Benedict, Tyconius’ conception of what will happen to the Church in the end times provides an important “missing link” for grasping the unprecedented moment in the economy of salvation at which the Holy Father believes the Church and the world have now arrived, as well as offering insight into his exceptionally enigmatic “resignation.”

As early as 1956, Joseph Ratzinger was intrigued by the 4th-century African theologian when, as a young bourgeoning priest and professor, he crafted and published an essay entitled “Reflections on Tyconius’ Concept of the Church in the ‘Liber Regularum.’”[ii] The essay explores what Ratzinger calls the “paradox” of Tyconius: “the fact that a man consciously and willingly places himself outside of any concrete ecclesiastical communion while still wanting to remain a Christian, and believes he belongs to the true Church.”[iii]

For Tyconius, the city of the devil exists both outside the Church and inside the Church – not only among the pagans but also among impostor Christians. Tyconius thus refers to a mysterious presence of evil within salvation history that is seen throughout Sacred Scripture and culminates in the bipartite structure of the Church: she consists of two distinct bodies that co-exist in the same visible institution even though they are diametrically opposed to one another.


The Church’s continual clash with the devil is the central theme of Tyconius’ commentary, yet he is particularly preoccupied with the war waged within the Church. The term ‘anti-church’ is a fitting designation for the devil’s body because his body masquerades as the church.

Tyconius identifies this enemy body that camouflages itself with the outward trappings of the Church using two biblical terms he deems interchangeable – the “mystery of iniquity”[iv] and the “abomination of desolation.”[v] According to Tyconius, this iniquitous, abominable, adverse entity will be fully revealed only at the time of what Tyconius calls the great discessio (2 Thess 2:3). Many English translations render this word as “apostasy” or “revolt.” The Latin term clearly has the sense of a “falling away” or “separation.” It is only at the time of the “falling away” that the bipartite condition of the world – two cities, one of God and one of the devil – will be wholly laid bare and displayed in what will actually be a “tripartite” division – the true Church, the false church, and the heathen world.

For Tyconius, it is only when the “great discessio” occurs that the distinction between the true Church and the false church is finally made manifest. “Only in the discessio will God’s true people, the right part of the Lord’s body, be revealed.”[vi]

Faithful Christians usually assume that the “falling away” – the “separation,” the “departure” – will be instigated by droves of people “leaving” the Church, a massive exodus of unbelievers. For Tyconius, however, the opposite is true. Tyconius understands that the great “falling away” of the end times will not be caused by unfaithful people leaving the Bride of Christ, but rather by the Bride of Christ pulling away from those within her who are unfaithful. In other words, for Tyconius, it is not the infidels who will “fall away” but rather the true believers, who will withdraw from the evil within the Church. A paradoxical reversal indeed.

For Tyconius, it is the new Israel who must depart on her new Exodus. The true Church herself will effect the great apostasy as a way of salvation[vii] from her enemies. In a real sense, the true Church will force the apostasy into the light, for the body of the devil, present in the false brothers inhabiting the Church, is already, and always has been, apostate. That fact has merely been concealed. Tyconius explains: “[I]t is necessary that Antichrist be revealed in the whole world, and in the same way to be overcome everywhere by the church…But now he is hidden in the church.”[viii]

How will the false brethren deceive people into trusting their guidance? Tyconius is unequivocally emphatic about this point: these false brethren are often found among the church’s leaders, the bishops. “The bishops do, under the guise of a gift of the church, what advances the will of the devil.”[ix] The bishops offer to the beast the veneer of a lamb, while he uses them as mouthpieces for his agenda.

Once the apostasy has been enacted, however, the Bride of Christ (the true Church) will then be battling not only the false brothers but the heathen world as well, which will have joined forces with the false brothers in an openly united demonic front: “to the whole body of the devil it was permitted by God.”[x]

Tyconius, Fatima, and the Great Apostasy

Seen in the light of Tyconian theology, Benedict XVI’s various comments about the significance of the message of Fatima take on a new significance. It becomes apparent that Benedict XVI understands the message of Fatima within the context of Tyconius’ assertion that the greatest evil for the Church in the end times is the evil hidden within her.

During Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Fatima in May 2010, a reporter asked the Holy Father:

Your Holiness, what meaning do the Fatima apparitions have for us today? In June 2000, when you presented the text of the third secret in the Vatican Press Office, a number of us and our former colleagues were present. You were asked if the message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II, to other sufferings on the part of the Popes. Is it possible, to your mind, to include in that vision the sufferings of the Church today?[xi]

Considering that the Holy See had essentially closed the door on the Third Secret of Fatima, Benedict’s reply was nothing short of stupefying. It can now also be perceived as “Tyconian”:

. . . [B]eyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in the first place refer to Pope John Paul II, an indication is given of realities involving the future of the Church, which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident. So it is true that, in addition to the moment indicated in the vision, there is mention of, there is seen, the need for a passion of the Church, which naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope, yet the Pope stands for the Church and thus it is sufferings of the Church that are announced. The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world…As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church…”[xii]

Benedict’s most theologically-charged statement was his comment about the vision designating a passion of the Church. According to Benedict’s assessment, the revelation to the three young children of Fatima was primarily about that passion – the coming sufferings of the Church, which are still to unfold and will be “reflected in the person of the Pope.” And, from where will the attacks that bring about this passion arise? He attested: “Precisely from within the Church.”


Analyzing Ratzinger’s comments, one author posits:

When the Cardinal spoke of the last things, he was referring to what the prophet Daniel said would take place in the end. He was referring to the end times – the last things; or as we would say in Greek, eschata. The eschatological things, the eschatological texts of Scripture. This is the Third Secret…”[xiii]

Evaluating other messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Church-approved apparition sites, one is inclined to agree with that author. In addition, two Cardinals who had personally read the Third Secret offer further credence to that viewpoint. First, Cardinal Oddi, a personal friend of Pope John XXIII, who had discussed the secret with him, said in testimony to an Italian journalist in 1990: “It [the Third Secret] has nothing to do with Gorbachev. The Blessed Virgin was alerting us against apostasy in the Church.”[xiv]  Second, Cardinal Ciappi, a personal papal theologian to Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, in a communication to a certain Professor Baumgartner in Salzburg, divulged: “In the Third Secret it is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top.”[xv]

As a final endorsement of this perspective, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the former Chief Exorcist of Rome, who personally knew Padre Pio for twenty-six years, gave a nearly identical verification, which he attributed to the great Capuchin saint and extraordinary mystic. “Indeed,” he states, “One day Padre Pio said to me very sorrowfully: ‘You know, Gabriele? It is Satan who has been introduced into the bosom of the Church and within a very short time will come to rule a false Church.’”

Chronologically and theologically, what does the “great apostasy” have to do with “i novissimi” to which Ratzinger referred? It is their linchpin. Saint Paul affirms in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians that the great apostasy is the triggering event for the commencement of “the last things,” that which unlocks the door for the advent of the “son of perdition”/ “the lawless one”/ “the Antichrist.”[xvi] Once set in motion, there is no turning back. The world and all of humanity will have entered a collision course with destiny.

The Resignation and “A Bishop Dressed In White”

Has Benedict realized that, as Pope, he has had to initiate the “withdrawal” of the true Church from the false so as to inaugurate the great apostasy and begin the exposure of the false brethren who have infiltrated the Church to the highest of levels?

With those questions in mind, let us look anew at the portion of the Third Secret (transcribed by Sister Lucia herself) which pertains to the Pope:

“And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White – ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.’ Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way.”[xvii]

Reflecting on Sister Lucia’s vision, Antonio Socci proposes that the “bishop dressed in white” and the “Holy Father” may actually be two distinct persons. He provocatively asks: “Does . . . the ‘secret’ that has at its center two figures – the ‘bishop dressed in white’ and an old pope – speak to us about the present? Who are these two figures?”[xviii] Further, Socci notes a truly stunning development: “On May 12, 2017, at Fatima, it was Pope Bergoglio himself who said that he is ‘the bishop dressed in white.’[xix]

Sister Lucia was always extremely attentive to detail and careful to relay exactly what the Blessed Virgin revealed to her. It would have been quite simple for her to keep referring to the “bishop in white” if it was in fact one and the same person. But she did not do this. Her words make clear that there are two distinct persons: the “bishop dressed in white” and “the Holy Father.”

Benedict knew the framework of Tyconius’ theology of the end times well. He knew that “after the unity there is going to be another separation in the last contest.”[xx] He also knew that “holy people, having been clearly warned by God, will leave” the false church, causing the “great discessio.” Within such an understanding of “eschatological ecclesiology” – what must happen to the Church in the end times – the two figures described by Sister Lucia would have taken on a unique significance in the acutely theologically aware mind of Joseph Ratzinger.

It seems quite possible that at a certain point Pope Benedict XVI ascertained the overlap and intersection of the message of Fatima and the theology of Tyconius and, in doing so, realized his own staggering and monumentous mission – that he was being called, like Abraham, to set forth in faith, “not knowing where he was to go.”[xxi] To take the Church, as Abraham took Isaac, and prepare to offer her as a holocaust.[xxii] So that “from one man, himself as good as dead”[xxiii] numerous descendants would one day come forth because of Benedict’s faith. A step that could only be taken because of a direct and personal call from God. A step that would make no sense if considered in terms of human calculation or worldly prudence. But a step that would initiate a new Exodus for the new Israel at the hour of her “final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his Death and Resurrection.”[xxiv]

Did Benedict XVI glean from the Third Secret, in accord with the teaching of Tyconius, that in God’s providential designs the climax of the confrontation between the true Church and the anti-church could only take place when the valid Successor of Peter permitted the arrival of the “bishop dressed in white”? That what was shown to the children of Fatima was exactly what Sister Lucia describes – a “mirror image” – one who appears to be the Holy Father but in fact is only a double? Was Sister Lucia additionally trying to communicate and highlight this “semblance of a pope” when she said: “[W]e had the impression that it was the Holy Father”? Did she intend to place the emphasis in that sentence on the word “impression”? – “[W]e had the impression that it was the Holy Father.” –  Was this because, when the “bishop dressed in white” would finally appear, the whole world would be under that same “impression”? While, in point of fact, the bishop dressed in white would only resemble the pope, the way an image seen in a mirror resembles reality – an imitation . . . an empty reproduction . . . a usurper. If so, did this awareness lead Benedict XVI to set out in faith, like Abraham, “not knowing where he was going,”[xxv] handing practical power over the visible structure of the church, to a “bishop dressed in white,” so as to initiate the “great discessio”?


[i] General Audience: Ambrose Autpert (22 April 2009); Cf. –https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090422.html.

[ii] Beobachtungen zum Kirchenbegriff des Tyconius im Liber regularum, J. Ratzinger, Revue d’ Etudes Augustiniennes Et Patristiques 2 (1-2): 173-185 (1956).

[iii] Id.

[iv] 2 Thess 2:7.

[v] Cf Dn 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; and Mt 24:15.

[vi] Id., 93 (note 22).

[vii] Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium (The Sequence of Pentecost). The salutis exitum or “exit of salvation” is a “way out” of the Church’s trials that will bring about God’s salvific plan.

[viii] Id., 56.

[ix] Id., 135.

[x] Id., 135.

[xi] Interview of the Holy Father Benedict XVI with the Journalists during the Flight to Portugal (Papal Flight, 11 May 2010). Cf. – https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2010/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20100511_portogallo-interview.html.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Fr. Paul Kramer, The Mystery of Iniquity (Liberty Lake: Unmasking Iniquity Association, 2012) 132.

[xiv] Fr. Paul Kramer, ed., The Devil’s Final Battle (The Missionary Association, Terryville, Conn., 2002) 33. Cf. Fatima Center, Some Other Witnesses (1930’s-2003).

[xv] See Father Gerard Mura, “The Third Secret of Fatima: Has It Been Completely Revealed?”, Catholic magazine, (published by the Transalpine Redemptorists, Orkney Isles, Scotland, Great Britain) March 2002. Cf. Fatima Center, Some Other Witnesses (1930’s-2003).

[xvi] 2 Thess 2.

[xvii]  https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_ doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html

[xviii] The Secret of Benedict XVI (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2019), 141.

[xix] Id. See also the Missal of the Apostolic Visit to Portugal, May 12, 2017:  “as bishop dressed in white [como bispo vestido de branco], I remember all those who, robed in baptismal white, want to live in God and pray the mysteries of Christ to attain peace.”

[xx] Tyconius, “Exposition of the Apocalypse,” 58.

[xxi] Heb 11:8.

[xxii] Gen 22.

[xxiii] Heb 11:12.

[xxiv] Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 677.

[xxv] Hebrews 11:8











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