An Interview With Dr. Zugibe . . .
"It Was Done," Sr. Lucia Says:
"You Can Tell All Your Friends"
By STEVE MAHOWALD
(Editor’s Note: Steve Mahowald is a traditional Catholic journalist from Omaha, Neb., and the publisher of Catholic News & Commentary. The following article and interview with Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe is an abridged version of a piece that appeared in September/October 2003 issue of Catholic News & Commentary. Dr. Zugibe is one of the world’s leading authorities on human crucifixion. He recently visited with Sr. Lucia, the seer of Fatima, and asked her, "Was Russia consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary or not?" For the full text of Mahowald’s article and interview, please visit http://www.sacramentals.org/Sept.Oct2003.htm.)
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There are those who have speculated for years about the longevity of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, who turned 96 in April of this year. Some propose that she has been given a long life in order to accomplish one more task — that being to confirm once and for all that the requested consecration of Russia has not yet been accomplished, and that it must be performed as requested if the promised peace is to come about.
The thought — and a fair amount of rumor — proposes that Sr. Lucia is locked away in a cloister, a virtual prisoner, unable to make her real thoughts known because of her unwavering obedience to her superiors. It has further been proposed that no one is able to meet with her without the permission of Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Thus, I was a little surprised when one of my readers alerted me to the following news item that first appeared on spiritdaily.org. Last year, Dr. Zugibe was invited to present his findings [on the crucifixion] to Carmelite nuns in Coimbra, Portugal, including the famed Fatima seer, Sr. Lucia. The doctor spent two hours in the visionary’s presence and found her to have a strong sense of humor and in "excellent" physical condition despite her age, 95 at the time.
"She told us all kinds of stories about when she was young and different things," Dr. Zugibe recounts about his visit with her. "She made rosaries and gave them to me and my wife, and a copy of her book Calls. I said, ‘Sr. Lucia, I want to ask you one question directly: Was Russia consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary or not, because there is all this controversy about that.’ She said in these words: ‘It was done. The Holy Father did it. It was done and you can tell your friends it was done’."
Not The First Time
Certainly this was not the first time reports have come out of Portugal claiming that Sr. Lucia had stated that the consecration had been performed. What, then, makes Dr. Zugibe’s report any different from the others? Is it more smoke and mirrors? Another attempt to entice us to follow the Vatican’s party line? Or, is there something here that is indeed different? Wanting to make certain I had the story straight, I requested an interview with Dr. Zugibe, to which he graciously agreed.
According to his biography, which one can access at http://e-forensicmedicine.net/index.html, Dr. Zugibe developed the Medical Examiner System in Rockland County, N.Y., in 1969 and served as Rockland County’s first chief medical examiner for over 33 years. He holds a bachelor of science, master of science (anatomy/electron microscopy), Ph.D. (anatomy/histochemistry), and an MD. As a medical professor he holds many titles and honors that are too numerous to mention. He is also a faithful Catholic and a daily communicant.
As one of the world’s leading authorities on human crucifixion, Dr. Zugibe’s forensic findings have been presented to scientific communities around the world. He is also known for his work on the Shroud of Turin. In a word, it is fair to say that the testimony of Dr. Zugibe in this matter (which is attested to by his wife, also a witness to the visit with Sr. Lucia) is unimpeachable.
My Interview With Dr. Zugibe
Steve Mahowald (S.M.).It has been a common view for many years that Sr. Lucia has been silenced in both the matters of the "secret" and the "promise" of Fatima: Was that your impression prior to your journey to Portugal?
Dr. Zugibe (Dr. Z.). Well, prior to that I had heard, through the writings of one particular priest, through these long dissertations, that — Sr. Lucia’s aunt — or someone, had said that it was not done, uh, or, never done properly. It wasn’t done right. It was supposed to be done with all the bishops all over the world.
S.M. Let me draw you back to the question — we’ll get to that, but prior to your going there, was it your impression that she was under silence in these matters, before you traveled to Portugal?
Dr. Z. No, I was under the impression that Sr. Lucia had verified to one particular priest, and all the rest of them, that it wasn’t done properly.
S.M. Why did you go there? Under what circumstances were you allowed to visit Sr. Lucia at her cloister?
Dr. Z. I was invited to Coimbra by the sisters, to give my talk on the crucifixion. And also, I had written there. My son had a medical problem a couple of years before, and asked for Sr. Lucia to pray for him, and Sr. Lucia’s niece, through a friend of mine who knew her sisters, took the request there, and they even asked for a picture of him. And she prayed for him, and he did very, very well. So I felt, at the same time, that I wanted to thank Sr. Lucia for her prayers.
I went there and gave a full talk on the crucifixion to Sr. Lucia and the group there. In fact, Sr. Lucia had open arms out to me when I went there. I gave the talk — it was really beautiful because we had a nice conversation. In fact her doctor, a young woman, whom I had met — I inquired, I said that I would love to take some pictures with Sr. Lucia, but I understand that it is not allowed. So she asked the mother superior. The mother superior relayed my request to Sr. Lucia. Sr. Lucia came out and said, "I don’t mind at all." She let us take a bunch of pictures, and we talked about different things.
Then I went ahead, at that particular time, and I said, "I don’t know if it’s off-limits here, but I’ve been hearing a lot of different rumors and a lot of different ideas — I’d like to know about this, Sister. I’d like to ask you a question. Was the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary done? I heard it wasn’t done — that it wasn’t done right and so forth. That she [Sr. Lucia] had indicated that it was not done."
Sr. Lucia looked both me and my wife right in the eye, and she said, "It was done! The Holy Father willed it. It was done, and you can tell your friends that it was done."
[. . .] Sister said specifically, right to me and my wife, "It was done!" And that’s the reason why I have related it [. . .]. Especially after we were conversing. I could not get over this woman, who was 95 at the time — this was in April [2002 — editor] — she is 96 now — smart as a whip! Extremely smart. She made rosaries — she even gave us rosaries she had made. And also, she has a book called Calls — it is fantastic — you have to read the book [. . .].
We really made out well with her, and we had this conversation. She was really sweet, she opened right up to my wife and I. Maybe it was because of the crucifixion lecture, I don’t know; that I had shown how Christ suffered and so forth, and told her that we were grateful for her prayers, and she opened right up. There was not even any kind of a gesture to say differently, in other words, she didn’t make any kind of gesture — she just said that it was properly done — and "You can tell your friends," she said [. . .].
S.M. Doctor, this not about your credibility — how would you answer those people who claim that the person presented to you was not Sr. Lucia?
Dr. Z. Such a claim would be totally preposterous. I will tell you why it was Sr. Lucia. A number of years ago, I was asked — one time someone asked me — they said they had met Sr. Lucia and wrote an article about Sr. Lucia — a fellow by the name of Carlos Everisto. He wrote several books over there, of sights in Fatima. He had written a letter to the chief of police and said that he had written an article about Sr. Lucia, and had a picture of himself with her. He thought that it was not Sr. Lucia. He wanted to know if the chief of police knew any forensic specialist who could compare that picture with known pictures of Sr. Lucia.
He came to me, and I went ahead and did a complete study, called an anthropomorphic study, of the photos showing that it was definitely the same person. I’m very, very familiar with what Sr. Lucia looks like after looking at a whole big bunch of pictures — I know exactly what she looks like, in all ways.
Then, I also had a long conversation with Sr. Lucia’s doctor. And Sr. Lucia’s doctor said that she would be there when I gave the talk [. . .]. The picture is taken with her behind the cloister grille, as they would not allow her to come out. For my part, I went there to give a lecture on the crucifixion. Being able to meet with Sr. Lucia just happened [. . .].
S.M. Was there any other conversation you had with her?
Dr. Z. She told us all kinds of stories about when she was young, and about her family life, and everything else — we spent over two hours with her. . . .
The reason I asked about the consecration is because it seemed to be a debatable thing: Some say it was done, others say it wasn’t done. And she just marveled at this Pope. You can tell when you are talking with her that she just loves our present Pope. This is the one that did it right — this Pope.
S.M. Did she say that? That he did it right?
Dr. Z. Yes. I even spoke with the other sisters. I wanted to be sure. I wanted to be clear. I had no intention of coming over here and then publicizing any of this until after I was asked about it by Fr. Andrew, who is my very close friend. He later mentioned it on EWTN. Then I would bump into people who are donating all sorts of money to those whom the sisters have asked not to return to their convent, nor to bring any pilgrims there. They don’t believe it [. . .].
Here’s my whole thing. I go to Mass and Communion every single morning — I’ve been doing it for 22 years.
S.M. So do I. We go the Traditional Latin Mass.
Dr. Z. That’s beautiful, I’m glad to hear that. That’s great.
S.M. The thing about this is, okay, that I have believed for a long time that the consecration wasn’t done, because there have been no results. In other words, according to the promise, when the consecration was done, Russia would be converted and there would be peace.
Dr. Z. I asked about that [. . .]. I said, you take a situation like Russia. Russia has prostitution, and the criminal aspect of things there is so prominent, and everything else. If Russia was consecrated, why?
The answer was this: [The sisters] said that the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary gave people the right to free will, to make their own choice. In other words, it opened it up so that they could go to church, they could go to Confession, whereas before they were under a regime where there was only a fear of going to church, a fear of religion. The consecration opened this up so that they were free to believe, and that no matter in what country, no matter wherever you are, you are free — you have free will to save your soul — to do what you want.
That was opened up to them. Not a great or big holiness that you could see — people have the wrong impression of that. . . . Over there, they were not allowed to have the same freedom of religion — but this opened up a freedom of religion where they can make their own free choice. . . .
S.M. Dr. Zugibe, I have just a couple more questions: If we could move back to the consecration for a moment — did Sr. Lucia indicate the involvement of the bishops in the consecration?
Dr. Z. No. The exact protocol involving the bishops was not discussed. This was not important because she emphatically stated without hesitation, "It was done! The Holy Father willed it to be done and it was done and tell all your friends." This clearly told all of us that it was done properly.
S.M. Do you feel that there was anything in the conversation with Sr. Lucia that was lost in the translating?
Dr. Z. Absolutely no! The person that translated for us was amazing. He was brought up and educated near the Canadian border, speaks perfect American with absolutely no accent, is an author, a writer, and does instantaneous translations. His Portuguese according to Sr. Lucia’s physician was also impeccable, without accent [. . .]. Also, Sr. Lucia’s physician, with whom I have become friends (we also correspond with each other), also speaks English and also confirmed what Sr. Lucia said during our conversation with her.
S.M. When you were with Sr. Lucia, did you observe anything which would indicate any impairment of Sister’s faculties — perhaps because of her age?
Dr. Z. Sr. Lucia was 95 years old and mentally acute [. . .]. We were amazed because she answered our questions and told us stories of her youth with great clarity. She and the other sisters inquired about different stories they had heard about our children that had been previously told to them. I was informed that her recent book, Calls From the Message of Fatima, was essentially written by her and it is excellent.
S.M. Thank you so much, Doctor, for the time, and for your candor. It has been a pleasure to visit with you about this. I can’t impress upon you how important I believe this is.
Dr. Z. Thank you. It has been my pleasure.
A Concluding Reflection
This is not the first report of Sr. Lucia confirming the completion of the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as commanded by our Lady at Fatima — but I, like many traditional Catholics, rejected any such statement because I doubted the people who delivered the message.
Had I read an account such as this one a couple of weeks ago — and were I not at all familiar with the work and reputation of Dr. Zugibe — I would likely have dismissed it as just so much modernist propaganda. But this week, well, things are different. My longtime readers know how convinced I was that the consecration was yet to be performed.
But consider the present circumstances: Dr. Zugibe is likely the only person in the world who could be trusted to identify Sr. Lucia from a forensic perspective — he made a lengthy and detailed study of her. He is credible. He is a solid Catholic and above reproach. He is unimpeachable. Dr. Zugibe has simply retold what Sr. Lucia told him.
In reality, this interview consists mostly of the eyewitness testimony of a remarkably credible individual. It is not about whether or not the consecration has been accomplished. It is only about whether or not Sr. Lucia — the only person to actually hear our Lady come to ask for the consecration of Russia — believes the consecration has been accomplished and accepted by Heaven. She is adamant in expressing that belief.
What about Sr. Lucia herself? Well, clearly, there is no "double" — no impostor. She is living out the short amount of time she likely has left in a cloister — living a life of self-denial, prayer, and sacrifice. Do you suppose that after 80 or so years of doing that she is going to knowingly tell a falsehood about the consecration? The answer to this rhetorical question, obviously, is no. Therefore, since it is never a wise thing to cross Our Blessed Mother, the time has come for traditional Catholics to seriously rethink our version of the events surrounding our Lady’s message at Fatima.