Tuesday | May 23, 2017
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Pope makes 2 Fatima children saints on centenary of visions

FATIMA, Portugal — Pope Francis added two Portuguese shepherd children to the roster of Catholic saints Saturday, honoring 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.

Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto saints at the start of Mass marking the centenary of their visions. A half-million people watched in the vast square in front of the shrine’s basilica, the Vatican said, citing Portuguese authorities. Many had spent days at Fatima in prayer, reciting rosaries before a statue of the Madonna.

“It is amazing. It’s like an answer to prayer, because I felt that always they would be canonized,” said Agnes Walsh from Killarney, Ireland. She said she prayed to Francisco Marto for 20 years, hoping her four daughters would meet “nice boys like Francisco.”

“The four of them have met boys that are just beautiful. I couldn’t ask for better, so he has answered all my prayers,” she said.

The pontiff left Fatima on Saturday afternoon after a stay of less than 24 hours. From his popemobile he saluted thousands of people lining the streets who cheered, waved flags and shouted “Viva o Papa!”

Francisco and Jacinta, ages 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 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 from sin.

At the time, Europe was in the throes of World War I, and the Portuguese church was suffering under anti-clerical laws from the republican government that had forced many bishops and priests into exile.

“Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures,” Francis said. “Such a life, frequently proposed and imposed, risks leading to hell.”

He urged Catholics today to use the example of the Marto siblings and draw strength from God, even when adversity strikes.

 

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