Two made saints on centenary of 1917 visions
FATIMA, PORTUGAL — Pope Francis added two Portuguese shepherd children to the roster of Roman Catholic saints Saturday, 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.
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.
“It is amazing. It’s like an answer to prayer, because I felt that always they would be canonized,” said Agnes Walsh of 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, aged nine and seven, 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 the First World War, and the Portuguese church was suffering under anticlerical laws from the republican government that had forced many bishops and priests into exile.
Pope Francis is hugged by Lucas Baptista. His mysterious healing was the “miracle” needed for sainthood.