Pope canonises Portuguese child visionaries in Fatima

Pope Francis prays in front of the grave of two of the three little shepherds at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal
Pope Francis prays in front of the grave of two of the three little shepherds at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal

Pope Francis added two Portuguese shepherd children to the roster of Catholic saints yesterday, honouring young siblings whose reported visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago turned the Portuguese farm town of Fatima into one of the world’s most important Catholic shrines.

Francisco (centre), Jacinta Marto (right) and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos. Pics/AFP
Francisco (centre), Jacinta Marto (right) and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos. Pics/AFP

Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto saints at the start of Mass marking the centenary of their visions. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims spent days at Fatima, reciting rosaries before a statue of the Madonna.

Francisco and Jacinta, aged 9 and 7, and their 10-year-old cousin, Lucia, reported that on March 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary made the first of a half-dozen appearances to them here while they grazed their sheep. They said she confided in them three secrets foretelling apocalyptic visions of hell, war, communism and the death of a pope and urged them to pray for peace and a conversion away from sin.

Francis also prayed at the tombs of each of the Fatima visionaries. The Marto siblings died two years after the visions during Europe’s Spanish flu pandemic. Lucia is on track for possible beatification, but her process couldn’t start until after her 2005 death.

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