The Fatima visionaries’ sceptical sister

SIR – Donal Anthony Foley (Feature, October 13) gives an excellent account of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. He rightly stresses the devastating impact on two sceptical journalists. But I was once privileged to meet a converted sceptic who was a very different case, and is seldom mentioned in accounts of Fatima – the visionaries’ older sister, Maria.

It was actually journalism that brought this meeting. In the 1950s, when Fatima was attracting widespread interest, there was a wave of misguided speculation. It was alleged that the Miracle of the Sun had foreshadowed a great event which was going to happen in 1960. In those days I was writing occasionally for a Sunday paper. It struck me that the reports of the solar miracle deserved attention in an article. Late in 1959 I suggested to the features editor that I should visit Fatima and see how the topic might be presented to the general public. He agreed, and arranged contacts for me. As a result, I met Maria.

She had had no part in the visions, and told me that, in common with most of her family, she had been unwilling to believe in them. On the day, she was terrified that nothing would happen and the crowd would be enraged. But, she said, the Miracle of the Sun converted her. I asked her what the sun actually appeared to do. She quietly raised one hand and traced a circle in the air with her finger. That was it.

Yes, I am prepared to say that I have met someone who witnessed a miracle. And at the time I was quite content that that word should appear in the heading of my article.

Geoffrey Ashe

Glastonbury, Somerset

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