While on a pilgrimage trip to Fatima, Portugal, this weekend, Pope Francis canonized two saints.
“Even now, I want to assure all of you who are united with me, here or elsewhere, that you have a special place in my heart,” Pope Francis said while presiding over a candlelight vigil, held yearly in Fatima on the night of May 12.
“Hand in hand with the Virgin Mother, and under her watchful gaze, may we come to sing with joy the mercies of the Lord, and cry out: ‘My soul sings to you, Lord!'” Francis said. “The mercy you have shown to all your saints and all your faithful people, you have also shown to me.”
One hundred years ago, three shepherd children claimed they saw the Virgin Mary multiple times near the small town of Fatima. The Virgin Mary gave “secret” words to the children.
The children — Lucia Santos and her cousins, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto — claimed they saw supernatural visions of hell, war, and soldiers killing a pope.
“In 1930, Bishop Dom Jose Aleves Correia da Silva of the Diocese of Leiria declared that based on the results of the investigative commission, the apparitions at Fatima were ‘worthy of belief,’ the highest recognition a Marian apparition can receive from the Church,” Catholic News Agency noted in a news report from Fatima this week.
The first appearance to these children is said to have occurred on May 13, 1917. At that time, Lucia was 10 years old; Francisco, 9; and Jacinta, 7. The children had a total of six visions of the Virgin Mary that year.
“During the second apparition, Mary promised to take Francisco and Jacinta to heaven soon, while Lucia would remain on earth ‘sometime longer’ to help establish a global devotion to the Immaculate Heart,” Cruxnow.com reported.
Francisco and Jacinta died within a few years of the apparitions — the result of a Spanish flu epidemic.
“We enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church,” Francis said Saturday in declaring Francisco and Jacinta as saints.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Lucia died — at 97 years old. Her life is under examination for possible canonization by the Catholic Church.
“In one appearance, Mary said a miracle would occur on Oct. 13, 1917,” as USA Today reported. “Initially the children were scolded and even threatened with death for spreading what were considered baseless stories. But pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Fatima on that date and awaited Mary’s appearance.”
The news outlet continued: “In what came to be called the ‘Miracle of the Sun,’ many reported seeing visions in the sky while others reported miracles of healing. A newspaper of the day reported, ‘Before their dazzled eyes the sun trembled, the sun made unusual and brusque movements, defying all the laws of the cosmos, and according to the typical expression of the peasants, “the sun danced.”‘”
During a historic mass on Saturday, May 13, Pope Francis presided over the canonization of the “blessed” Francisco and Jacinta on the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition they claimed to receive.
“In His name, I come to you with the joy of sharing the Gospel of hope and peace,” Francis said in a video message before his trip to Fatima.