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Pope Francis to canonise children at Fatima shrine

18 Mai 2017

The shrine, built on the site where the apparitions are said to have taken place, is an global pilgrimage site.

"I hope that someday, many more people from our diocese will be able to come to pray at Fátima, at this wonderful shrine", he said. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter.

He conceded that pilgrims to Medjugorje experience a spiritual renewal, "encounter God, change their lives" and also said he believed the original apparitions in the early 1980s are more likely to be authentic than the continuing ones.

Pope Francis urged Catholics on Friday to "tear down all walls" and spread peace as he traveled to this Portuguese shrine town to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the most unique events of the 20th-century Catholic Church: the visions of the Virgin Mary reported by three illiterate shepherd children and the "secrets" she told them.

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 people.

The high point of the pontiff's visit Saturday is the canonization Mass for two Fatima shepherd children who reported visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago.

The children told skeptical elders they witnessed six apparitions of the Virgin Mary while tending sheep with their older cousin Lucia de Jesus dos Santos between May 13, 1917, and October 13, 1917.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified the Marto siblings during a Mass at Fatima and used the occasion of the new millennium to reveal the third "secret" that the children reported they had received from the Madonna.

Pope Benedict later updated the interpretation of the third prophesy, saying it could include the suffering of the church following sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Vatican.

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The Marto siblings died in the Spanish flu pandemic that swept Europe after the First World War. Lucia, who later became a nun, is on track for beatification - a step towards canonisation - but the process could not start until after her death in 2005.

Fatima has always been associated with St. John Paul II, given that the Polish-born pope credited the Virgin Mary with saving his life in 1981 when a would-be assassin shot him on Fatima's feast day - May 13 - in St. Peter's Square.

The Martos are now the youngest-ever saints who didn't die as martyrs.

Despite his personal doubts, the pope said that the "spiritual and pastoral facts can not be denied: People go there and convert, people who find God, who change their lives".

And the parents of a Brazilian boy say he healed at lightning speed after falling more than six metres from a window in 2013, after they prayed to Jacinta and Francisco. But, it's clear. Who thinks that the Madonna says, 'come tomorrow at this time, and at such time I will say a message to that seer?' No.

Coinciding with Pope Francis canonizing two of the children who spotted the Blessed Mother, the Saturday event at Old St. Mary's Church in Greektown revolves around her significance.

Talk of apparitions and miracles outside of those described in the Old and New Testaments does not sit comfortably with everyone in the Church.

Initially, the revelations made by the three children were doubted and they were threatened that, if they did not recant their accounts, they would be sentenced to death by burning oil.

Pope Francis to canonise children at Fatima shrine