FATIMA, PORTUGAL — Three shepherd children in Portugal were jailed and threatened with being boiled alive in olive oil when they claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to them 100 years ago. The Catholic Church doubted their story too.
From that unpromising start, the children’s reported visions would go on to strengthen the faith of Portugal’s persecuted Catholics and make the small farming town of Fatima one of the world’s foremost pilgrimage sites, with around 6 million visitors a year.
Now, the Portuguese youngsters’ long-ago testimony is giving the Catholic Church its youngest saints who did not die as martyrs. Pope Francis plans to observe the centenary of their visions by canonizing Francisco and Jacinta Marto this weekend when he makes his first pilgrimage to Fatima.
During the Friday-Saturday visit, Francis will also likely seek to make Fatima’s message of peace and prayer resonate today, church officials say. According to church lore, the Virgin Mary urged penance, sacrifice, and turning away from sin during her appearances to the children.
“At Fatima, the pope could make an appeal to humanity that `If you don’t change your criteria, be it political or economic, the world will suffer,”‘ said Monsignor Carlos Azevedo, who led the church commission that compiled the 15 volumes of documentation about the Fatima phenomenon.
Source: VOA News