Faith News

Pope canonizes Fatima visionaries, giving church new child saints

FATIMA, Portugal (Reuters) Pope Francis gave the Catholic Church two of its youngest saints on Saturday (May 13), canonizing shepherd siblings believed to have seen the Madonna 100 years ago in a Portuguese town that is now a major pilgrimage site.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom slept outdoors to hold their places, broke into applause as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics proclaimed the siblings — Francisco and Jacinta Marto — the newest of the church’s saints.

The two died at the ages of 10 and 9 years old, within three years of the 1917 apparitions, making them the youngest saints of the church who were not martyrs.

The Virgin of Fatima is venerated by Catholics around the world, a following underscored by the many national flags fluttering in the huge crowd, estimated at more than half a million.

Marie Chantal, 57, a lifelong devotee, traveled 5,600 miles from the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean to attend the ceremony.

“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.

In the homily of a huge outdoor Mass, Francis prayed that the Madonna would protect the most vulnerable members of society, “especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned.”

Two huge tapestries made from century-old photographs of the children dressed in the traditional peasant garb of the times hung from the church that is now the focal point of the sanctuary visited by about 7 million people each year.

The story of Fatima’s shepherd children has captivated Catholics since their first reported vision on May 13, 1917.

The church believes the Madonna gave three children — Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their older cousin Lucia Dos Santos — three messages, the so-called secrets of Fatima. Dos Santos became a nun and died in 2005 at age 97, and efforts are underway to make her a saint as well.

The first two secrets were revealed soon and concerned a vision of hell, seen by believers as a prediction of the outbreak of World War II, a warning that Russia would “spread her errors” in the world, and a need for general conversion to God and prayer.

The “third secret” intrigued the world for more than three-quarters of a century, inspiring books and cults convinced that it predicted the end of the world.

In 2000, the Vatican said it was a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on May 13, the same day of the first reported apparition in 1917.

John Paul believed the Madonna had diverted one of the bullets that hit him from his vital organs. He donated it to the sanctuary, where it is now embedded in the crown of the statue of the Madonna.

For the canonization ceremony, Gracinda Vieira, 57, slept outside during the chill night in Fatima to hold her place near the front of the crowd.

“It was not a great sacrifice. … It is very important for me and for the church,” said Vieira, who had traveled from her home more than 150 miles north of Fatima in central Portugal.

“This pope is different in everything. I like him a lot. He is closer to us, the people,” she said.

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Philip Pullella

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Sergio Goncalves


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  • Amazing how the mother of god chose to appear to three small, illiterate children, rather than on the steps of the cathedral in Lisbon.

    Amazing how some people at Fatima saw “the sun dance”, yet other people did not.

    Amazing how no one not at Fatima saw the sun dance, there were no weather disruptions that might indicate that the sun had danced.

  • Speaking of dancing, a poem by Rumi:

    O day, arise!
    shine your Light, the atoms are dancing.

    Thanks to Him the universe is dancing,
    overcome with ecstasy, free from body and mind

    I’ll whisper in your ear where their dance is leading them.

    All the atoms in the air and in the desert are dancing–
    puzzled and drunken to the ray of Light,
    they seem insane.

    All these atoms are not so different than we are,
    happy or miserable,
    perplexed and bewildered.

    We are all beings in the ray of Light from the Beloved.

    Nothing can be said.

  • I’ll see your poem by Rumi, and raise you The Hymn of Jesus from the Apocryphal Acts of St. John: :o)

    Glory to thee, Father!
    Glory to thee, Word!
    Glory to thee, O Grace!
    Glory to thee, Holy Spirit!
    Glory to thy Glory!
    We praise thee, O Father;
    We give thanks to thee, O shadowless light!

    Fain would I be saved: And fain would I save.
    Fain would I be released: And fain would I release.
    Fain would I be pierced: And fain would I pierce.
    Fain would I be borne: Fain would I bear.
    Fain would I eat: Fain would I be eaten.
    Fain would I hearken: Fain would I be heard.
    Fain would I be cleansed. Fain would I cleanse.
    I am Mind of all. Fain would I be known. Amen.

    Divine Grace is dancing.
    Fain would I pipe for you: Dance ye all!
    Fain would I lament: Mourn ye all!

    The Heav’nly Spheres make music for us;
    The Holy Twelve dance with us;
    All things join in the dance!
    Ye who dance not, know not what we are knowing.

    Fain would I flee: And fain would I remain.
    Fain would I be ordered: And fain would I set in order.
    Fain would I be infolded: Fain would I infold.
    I have no home: In all I am dwelling.
    I have no resting place: I have the earth.
    I have no temple: And I have Heav’n.
    To you who gaze, a lamp am I:
    To you that know, a mirror.
    To you who knock, a door am I:
    To you who fare, the way.

    Ye could not know at all what things ye endure,
    Had not the Father sent me to you as a Word.
    Beholding what I suffer, ye know me as the Sufferer.
    And when ye had beheld it, ye were not unmoved;
    But rather were ye whirled along, ye were kindled to be wise.
    Had ye known how to suffer, ye would know how to suffer no more.

    Learn how to suffer, and ye shall overcome.
    Behold in me a couch: rest on me!
    When I am gone, ye shall know who I am;
    For I am in no wise that which now I seem.
    For ye are come to me, then shall ye know:
    What ye know not, will I myself teach you.
    Fain would I move to the music of holy souls!
    Know in me the word of wisdom!
    And with me cry again:
    Glory to thee, Father!
    Glory to thee, Word!
    Glory to thee, Holy Spirit!

  • 2 Corinthians 5:8 – We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
    Two options….what they saw was their imagination, or a delusion. Mary does not walk the Earth.
    People walked the Earth when Christ arose from the dead, but no longer.
    To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
    Also, all Christians are saints.