Local author commemorates Fatima centennial with new book

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PROVIDENCE — Local author Paul Caranci has released a new book detailing the events at Fatima, in commemoration of the centennial of Our Lady’s appearance to the three children and the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the two youngest, earlier this year.

“The Promise of Fatima: One Hundred Years of History, Mystery and Faith” tells the story of Fatima from the beginning of the world war that served as background to the apparitions to their impact into the 21st century, recounting historical details and religious significance as it goes through a day-by-day retelling of the events.

Caranci, a North Providence native and parishioner at St. Augustine Church, Providence, told Rhode Island Catholic that, like many Catholics, he was familiar with the story of Fatima from a young age.

“From age 5 or 6 when I was in the first grade, I remember hearing the nuns talk about Fatima,” he said during an interview at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Providence.

He learned the importance of Marian devotions from his mother, who often prayed novenas, and spoke in school about the three children who saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary while tending sheep in a field in Portugal. However, it wasn’t until recently that he developed an interest in learning more about Our Lady of Fatima while talking with a friend, Father Robert Webster of the Diocese of Orlando, during Father Webster’s visit to Rhode Island.

“Last year when he was here, we started talking about Fatima. I knew the surface of Fatima, but I didn’t really know the detail of Fatima,” he said. “So we started talking about Fatima and it intrigued me.”

Caranci began researching the events during the spring of 2016 and completed the book in a little over a year, finishing in the midst of the Fatima centennial that lasts from May to October of this year. He hopes the book might help other Catholics to rediscover the message of Our Lady of Fatima and the devotions she requested in the name of world peace, particularly at a time when violence and strife in society can create the appearance of a world not so different from the one Our Lady would have encountered in 1917.

“What surprised me the most was really how similar the world then was to now,” said Caranci. “You think people might’ve learned something, but even history’s just forgotten and repeats itself.”

Among his research, he looked at firsthand accounts of the apparitions from Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three children, as well as previous books about the topic and newspaper articles published at the time. In the United States, he said, the events garnered surprisingly little news coverage as attentions were turned to the American entry into World War I and the World Series success of the Chicago White Sox over the New York Giants on October 15. In Europe, however, newspapers recorded the tens of thousands of people who turned out to witness Mary’s apparition two days earlier and reported their accounts of the miracle that occurred.

“The amazing thing with the apparition is it wasn’t a thing that three kids saw that nobody could verify,” said Caranci. “Because Mary performed the ‘Miracle of the Sun’ on October 13, there were 70,000 witnesses.”

“The Promise of Fatima” is Caranci’s eighth book, and the first to focus on a historical event in the life of the Church. While his previous books have covered local history and recounted tales of political corruption — including his own role as an FBI informant in a North Providence political corruption probe – Caranci said he hoped to cover new ground in his latest book.

“I thought, I’m kind of done with the political corruption and the controversy, I’d like to do something noncontroversial — only to discover with this there is a lot of controversy over the third secret.”

He referred to the third secret revealed by Mary to the children at Fatima, which foretold the death of a pope and persecution of the Church. While the Vatican interprets the vision as referring to the failed assassination attempt on Saint John Paul II, some individuals believe the secret refers to events that have not yet occurred. Though he discusses the controversy in the book, Caranci said he does not see the interpretation of the secret as central to understanding the message of Fatima and hopes it does not distract from the importance of the events.

“That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we as Catholics haven’t heeded the message of Fatima,” he said.

His own devotion to Our Lady of Fatima has deepened since beginning the book, an effect he hopes the story may inspire in his readers. Though the first apparition occurred more than 100 years ago, Mary’s message at Fatima, and her promise of peace, seems as relevant to the world today as it did to the three shepherd children tending their flocks.

“These are the kinds of things that really transform lives,” said Caranci. “These kinds of stories. And it transformed me.”