Pope sends video message of peace ahead of Fatima visit

Pope sends video message of peace ahead of Fatima visit

Pope : VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Portugal ahead of his visit to Fatima to mark the 100th anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s reported apparitions to three young shepherds.

Speaking in Portuguese, the pope defined his two-day official visit to the Catholic shrine May 12-13 as a “pilgrimage of hope and peace” and apologized for not seeing more of the country.

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“I know that you wanted me to come to your homes and communities, your towns and cities,” he said. “I received all your invitations! Needless to say, I would have liked to accept every one of them, but I cannot.”

Francis will commemorate the anniversary of the apparitions, which began May 13, 1917. On Saturday, during a Mass, he will canonize two of the child shepherds, Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

The children were ostracized at first when they reported seeing the apparition of Mary, who identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary,” while they tended sheep at Cova da Iria near Fatima.

The siblings will be among the youngest saints ever declared by the Catholic Church.

Francis thanked the Portuguese people and authorities for understanding his “decision to restrict the usual events associated with a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fatima,” which attracts around 6 million pilgrims a year.

The pontiff said he was grateful to know that the Portuguese people were preparing to join him on his pilgrimage through prayer, which “makes our hearts grow and prepares us to receive God’s gifts.”

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