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Pope Heads to Fatima

13940681 - a detail of the statue of our lady of fatima in gwardamangia, malta.Pope Francis will mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, Portugal with a 25-hour visit during which time he will canonize the two youngest seers at a Mass expected to draw close to a half-million people.

Crux is reporting on the pilgrimage which begins tomorrow and includes few of the pope’s usual stops when abroad. He will attend a 20-minute meet-and-greet with the Portuguese president and other civil authorities, celebrate an open-air Mass, and have lunch with the local bishops. There will be no side visits to prisons or lengthy meetings with clergy and religious.

Francis has a strong personal devotion to Our Lady and referred to her as the Mother of Hope to thousands of pilgrims and tourists during his Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square. 

“Our Lady’s experience of motherhood models that of so many mothers in our world,” such as those who have to confront the suffering of their children.

Her image, he said “standing at the foot of the cross and grieving the death of her innocent Son has inspired artists of every age to present her as a model of persevering hope in God’s promises.”

While in Portugal, he will give few public speeches. He will offer a prayer and short speech in the “heart” of the shrine of Fatima which is known as the chapel of the apparitions and is the place where Our Lady of the Rosary appeared to the shepherds on five of her six appearances.

On Saturday, he will deliver a homily during the canonization Mass of Fatima seers Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Soon after, he will speak again when he greets a group of ill people.

According to Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima in a recent interview, it’s only fitting that the pope should be present as the shrine closes the 100th anniversary celebrations of the apparitions because the pope was so much a part of the message of Fatima. Not only did Our Lady repeatedly ask for prayer for the Pope during the apparitions, a figure described as the “bishop in white” who leads a persecuted Pilgrim church figures prominently in the third message of Fatima, which was revealed in the year 2000.

The centenary “wouldn’t be complete without the presence of the pope,” since he’s a “part of the message of Fatima,” the bishop said.

“The centenary is a memorable, unforgettable date to give thanks to God for all the gifts that the message of Fatima has scattered throughout Portugal, but also in the whole world.”

This will be the fourth papal visit to Fatima. Paul VI and Benedict XVI visited Fatima as did St. John Paul who made three pilgrimages to the famed shrine. On one of those visits, in 1982, he brought the bullet from a would-be assassin who attempted to kill him in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. Convinced that Our Lady spared his life, the saint had the bullet placed into the Virgin’s crown at Fatima.

This will be the 19th trip of Francis’ papacy and Portugal will be the 28th nation that he has visited since his election on March 13, 2013.

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