“Which Mary?” Francis at Fatima: The wounded world, prophetic shepherds, and Mother Mary

Diego Fares SJ

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Pope Francis’ trip to Fatima took place on May 12 and 13, exactly 100 years after the apparitions of the Virgin of Fatima. He canonized two of the three shepherd children who lived that experience in 1917: Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Lucia, the third child, died in 2005 and the cause of her beatification is ongoing.

This was the fifth trip of a successor of St. Peter to Fatima and follows those by Paul VI (in 1967 on the 50th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother), by Saint John Paul II (in 1982, a year after the attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square and again in 1991 and 2000), and by Benedict XVI (in 2010 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the shepherd children, Jacinta and Francisco).

In the following pages we will provide a detailed report of the pope’s trip and we will pick out three elements that in our opinion were the important focal points of the trip in order to help better understand its meaning[1]: the political value of the trip; the importance of a prophetic message being entrusted to shepherd children; and the true meaning of Marian devotion.

Report of the trip

The papal airplane landed at 4:35 p.m. at the military airport of Monte Real. Upon his arrival the pope was greeted by the President of the Republic of Portugal, Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa, and by a group of about 1,000 faithful. After the standard greetings he was taken by car to a chapel on the base, where some sick members of the military and their families awaited him. Then he left the base by helicopter and went to the stadium at Fatima, where he was met by the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Antonio Augusto dos Santos Marto and by the mayor, without any formalities or speeches. He went immediately to the chapel of the apparitions.

The open area around the sanctuary was packed with nearly 500,000 faithful who expressed their joy on the pope’s arrival. The pilgrims had arrived as early as the night before, staying there despite the rain. Their joy slowly transformed into an intense prayer: the festive greetings turned into a profound, prayerful silence that joined itself to that of the pope. Francis, accompanied by his doctor, Prof. Soccorsi, prayed to the Virgin and then placed a golden rose at the feet of the statue. All of this took place under a sunny sky that remained throughout the pope’s visit.

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