This book is credited to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who did contribute the majority of the content; however the person responsible for the questions, the layout, and the structure of the whole is a journalist by the name of Giuseppe de Carli who seems to have an unfortunate flair for the sensational. The book takes the form of a full-length interview with some supporting documentation at the end and a foreward by Pope Benedict XVI.
As an interview, the book has its ups and downs. There are unfortunate and sometimes meaningless digressions; the final 15% of the interview section has nothing whatsoever to do with the title of the book, and appears to be meaningless padding designed to form a "book-length" study; for those not intimately familiar with everyday events in Italy, there are meangingless, enigmatic and odd references to events that may or may not be related to the main theme--I somehow doubt that the death of Oriana Fallaci has a whole lot to do with the Fatima secrets.
There are times when de Carli, either legitimately, or out of a perverse sense of journalistic sensationalism forces the points of the so-called Fatimists, insisting at points the Sister Lucia's true revelations had been suppressed, or that there was a fourth secret, or that the final secret did not concern Pope John Paul II. Perhaps these are just meant to clear away the will 'o the wisps that seem to flicker around the edges of this phenomenon.
What the book highlighted for me is the source of my distaste for the entire Fatima phenomenon. As is so often the case, it isn't the veracity or likelihood of the events in Fatima in 1917, but the claims and exaggerations and distortions made by those most partisan to the Fatima visions.
What does come across in the book very nicely is a sense of Sister Lucia as a person. One feels that she was a lively, tart, impish character who took guff from no one and who shot straight from the hip. At one point in the interview we see this:
from The Last Secret of Fatima
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
After the Secret had been revealed, some people began to doubt the genuineness of the text. Lucia's Carmelite superior in Coimbra told her about this doubt: "They're saying that there's another secret." With a sigh, Lucia replied, "Well if they know what it is, then let them tell us. For my part, I don't know about any other secrets. Some people are never satisfied. Let's not pay them any mind."
A beautiful example of saintly saying-it-like-it-is.
The book does explore the last secret of Fatima. In addition, for those of us (like me) who knew virtually nothing about the Fatima event and aftermath, it sketches in the history and timeline of events. The revelation of the "secrets" of Fatima is a little odd, occurring as it does in 1941 and 1946; however, God works in His own ways and sometimes it takes time and courage to come forward with His truth.
One of the quiet gems of the book is a short theological commentary on the Fatima secrets and in particular the last secret by then Cardinal Ratzinger. In the course of this short (12 page) essay, Cardinal Ratzinger outlines the status of public and private revelations and provides an interpretive outline for the Fatima visions and their meaning for the world today.
from "Theological Commentary"
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
The teaching of the Church distinguishes between "public Revelation" and "private revelations." The two realities differ not only in degree but also in essence. The term "pubic Revelation" refers to the revealing action of God directed to humanity as a whole and which finds its literary expression in the two parts of the Bible: the Old and New Testaments. It is called "Revelation" because in it God gradually made himself known to men, to the point of becoming man himself, in order to draw to himself the whole world and unite it with himself through his Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. It is not a matter therefore of intellectual communication, but of a life-giving process in which God comes to meet man. At the same time this process naturally produces data pertaining to the mind and to the understanding of the mystery of God. It is a process that involves man in his entirety and therefore reason as well, but not reason alone. Because God is one, history, which he shares with humanity is also one. It is valid for all time, and it has reached its fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here, the man who was to become the Holy Father set out clearly the lines of demarcation. The essay continues with the same remarkable, succinct clarity and provides one of the deeply insightful high points of the book.
Overall The Last Secret of Fatima is a muddled, digressive, journalistic mess that nevertheless does cast a great deal of light on the phenomenon of Fatima and on the practices of the faithful who remain in line with church teaching. The book isn't for everyone, but it is certainly accessible to anyone sincerely interested in trying to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as Fatima is concerned. I'm glad I've read it because it has at once helped me to become both more informed about this small piece of Church History and more receptive and responsive to the Blessed Mother. In addition, it was a poignant reminder of how much I loved Pope John Paul the Great and how I look forward to the Church's revelation of God's will concerning his heavenly status. I won't say the same thing will happen for all who read it, but if you come looking for the truth, I think you may find a good deal of it between the covers of this book.