In celebration of the centenary of the date when the Virgin Mary was seen in Fatima, Pope Francis plans to visit the holy shrine. Portuguese officials announced this week that the pope will be at the sanctuary May 12th and 13th to take part in the celebrations. Pope Francis is the 4th pope to visit the sanctuary.
About the Sanctuary of Fátima
Located in the city of Fatima in the Qurem municipality, the shrine consists of several structures. The buildings that make up the sanctuary include Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Chapel of the Lausperene, a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Chapel of the Apparitions, and a great oak tree. Since the original apparition in 1916, several other buildings and monuments have been added to the shrine.
In 1916 three shepherd children, Lucia Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto witnessed holy apparitions. These visions happened on three different occasions with the last vision on May 13th 1917, when they saw what they described as the Virgin Mary. Once they saw the apparitions, they began to do penance and self sacrifice. People began to flock to the location of the holy shrine and it has since become an important pilgrimage destination.
On October 13th 1917, 30,000 – 100,000 people gathered in the town to visit the shrine in hope of seeing miracles. This day is known as the Miracle of the Sun, or O Milagre do Sol, and it is recorded that many people were witness to extraordinary happenings. Lucia, Jacinda, and Francisco were present and were said to have had more visions including those of Jesus, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and St. Joseph.
In 1930, the Miracle of the Sun was officially recognized as a miracle by the Catholic Church. In 1951, Cardinal Tedeschini who was the papal legate at the time, told the gatherers at the shrine of visions that Pope Pius XII had seen himself.
Since 1919, many structures have been added to the site and the shrine attracts many visitors of the Roman Catholic faith. On May 13th and October 13th, there are over a million pilgrims that visit with over 4 million visiting every year.
Although there are always visitors to the shrine, the busiest times of the year are on the feast days of the 13th of both May and October. The day before the feast days on May 12th and October 12th, tens of thousands of pilgrims flow into the small town. Then a statue of Our Lady of Fatima is brought through the town as visitors wave their handkerchiefs. The days festivities continue into nighttime torchlight processions.
This year will be extra special with the Pope’s planned visit.