Pope urges Catholics in Fatima: Spread peace

Cheryl Sanders
May 13, 2017

"We are going to pray to Fatima and Pope Francis so that they can intervene for a peaceful solution for Venezuela", said Jose Ornelas, a 59-year-old librarian who came all the way from Caracas, which along with other cities has been wracked by deadly anti-regime protests.

Pope Francis has attended the traditional Blessing of the Candles at the Fatima shrine, a world-famous pilgrimage site in Portugal which the pontiff is visiting for less than 24 hours. - Reuters picHundreds of worshippers woke up early in an attempt to get the best position possible to see the Holy Father perform a canonisation ceremony where he will make two Portuguese shepherd children saints. Many had spent days at Fatima in prayer, reciting rosaries before a statue of the Madonna.

Pope Francis has left Portugal after presiding at the canonization Mass in Fatima of two shepherd children who 100 years ago said the Virgin Mary appeared to them.

Pope Francis gave the Catholic Church two of its youngest saints on Saturday, canonizing shepherd siblings believed to have seen the Madonna 100 years ago in a Portuguese town that is now a major pilgrimage site.

"It is incredible. It's like an answer to prayer, because I felt that always they would be canonized", said Agnes Walsh from Killarney, Ireland.

It is through Mary's cooperation and participation in salvation that she also became a channel of God's mercy, he explained, praying that, with Mary, we might - "each of us - become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything".

Francis arrived in Portugal on Friday afternoon to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions and canonize the children, or make them saints. I feel that Jesus has entrusted you to me (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and I embrace all of you and commend you to Jesus, "especially those most in need" - as Our Lady taught us to pray (Apparition of July, 1917).

On Sunday, 13 May 1917, the three children, sister and brother Jacinta Marto (7) and Fancisco Marto (9) and their cousin Lucia dos Santos (10) were grazing their flock as usual at the Cova da Iria, which was about a mile from their homes.

Francis' deputy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has said the importance of Fatima lies in the fact that poor, illiterate children - not the wealthy, the learned or intellectuals - were able to convey a powerful message of love and forgiveness at a time of war, when "the talk was of hatred, vendetta, hostilities".

In his greeting, Francis said that we do a great injustice to God and his grace if we speak of his justice without speaking also of his mercy.

Despite bribes, threats of death by burning oil, and threatening to lock them in a cell with criminals, the children never recanted their story. But they held fast and eventually the church recognized the apparitions as authentic in 1930.

Jacinta and Francisco have joined the ranks of recognised saints such as Mother Teresa.

Before the Mass, Francis prayed at the tombs of each of the Fatima visionaries. Her case couldn't begin until after her death in 2005.

The boy, aged 5 at the time, had fallen 6.5 meters (21 feet) from a window in 2013 and suffered severe head trauma.

"I am very emotional because this pope is truly merciful and close to the people and I think he will bring us many good things", she said. A special emphasis was laid on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is a refuge of maternal love for us all and a sure path that leads us to God and to Jesus.

Lucia refused to reveal a third secret at the time but informed the Vatican about it.

The siblings and their cousin, Lucia, reported that on March 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to them while they grazed their sheep.

Pope Francis is meeting privately with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa at the start of the second day of his visit to the Fatima shrine in Portugal. One can recall that St. John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life from the assassin's bullet on May 13, 1981.

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