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Fatima Swept by Rain and Wind and then Bathed in Sun

Crowds Are Flowing and Preceding Pope Francis

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On Thursday evening, May 11, 2017, Fatima was swept by wind and rain, then bathed in sun but holding its breath as it welcomed pilgrims. A page of its history is turning with the arrival of Pope Francis this Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13, for the centenary of the first Apparition in 1917 to Francisco and Jacinta Marto and Lucia Dos Santos.
In close ranks without ceasing to move they pray in relays in the glass-walled small Chapel of the Apparitions where the Virgin Mary, whose statue is known throughout the world, has received over a century the homage of four Popes – Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI – and of millions of pilgrims.
They arrive on foot, wearing their fluorescent gilets, in groups or by themselves, while the cars of “support to pilgrims” criss cross the routes ready to help those in distress. For 6 1/2 Euros, one can regain one’s strength with a hot meal: traditional cod a la creme, potatoes and onions au gratin, fresh salad, a small glass of the country’s wine, a typical pasty dessert a la creme and an espresso coffee. However, many have provided for everything in the backpacks. They have arrived from all over Portugal or even from farther away: Lithuania or China, Canada or France, hurrying to the gathering and well prepared. Songs are being sung, murmurs of Aves. They clap their hands and then stop in a village, collapsing with exhaustion in a corner, deaf to the agitation that increases by the hour, barefoot to relieve their suffering feet and without a care to see their precious walking shoes disappear during their restorative sleep.
On the outskirts of the village some have already pitched their tents under trees, sheltered from the rain under the polished blue canvas so characteristic also of DIY trucks turned into camping cars of another age. Others are better sheltered in their new generation camping cars crowned by satellite dishes. A free room cannot be found for kilometers around. A simple mattress in a house under construction with cables is a boon.
A Chinese youth, his pockets full of miraculous medals received at the Parisian Shrine of rue du Bac, does not cease to offer them to all, notably to a three generation family from Cape Verde, including Iris, four and a half years old, who, like her president, is doing the pilgrimage to accompany the Pope’s . The Chinese youth, however, gifted by the contact finally decides to finish alone on foot, after having gone to find “’real” shepherds, their goats and sheep, to better understand the two little shepherds Francisco and Jacinta that Pope Francis has come to canonize.
Mission Accomplished
In the town, the shops offer luxury umbrellas and waterproof ponchos to the pilgrims lacking foresight.
Hearing the accents, seeing the faces one understands that the little shepherds have truly fulfilled their mission: the message has crossed the oceans and attracts people to Fatima more surely than Vasco da Gama’s conquests.
A lady recommends to the ”novices” who have come for the first time to the Shrine to provide themselves for one euro with a white scarf that is waved traditionally at the moment when, after a celebration or procession, the statue of the Virgin Mary is returned to her “Little Chapel”: it is a good-bye to the Virgin. Laurinda evokes this moment with emotion and sings with all her heart and gentle accents the words of the hymn to the Virgin, which touched her little audience. This time, she is overcome by emotion and must stop . . . She also fulfilled well her mission to communicate her heart-to-heart experience with the Virgin Mary, without speeches.
At Fatima, the mystery can be seen in people’s gestures, as the pilgrims that advance on their knees – with or without protection from their knees to their tibias, leaning sometimes on the arm of one next to them, young and old, more women than men, on the long path of white stones that leads to Mary’s threshold, between the new and old Shrine where portraits of Francisco and Jacinta announce the celebration around them.
A theologian said recently that if one observed the same “responsibility” in regard to others as children do, one would witness a change of civilization. Cardinal Angelo Sodano — to whom John Paul II entrusted in the year 2000 of their Beatification, the revelation of the content of the “third secret” in the presence of Sister Lucia –, stressed “the hope” of the message of Fatima, which is also the theme of the Pope’s trip as pilgrim of peace and of hope. Because the Virgin’s message tells at once the presence of God and of Heaven in the history of men, who are not abandoned to their upheavals. And she spoke of the confidence of God and of Heaven in men’s freedom as leaven to foster a better world. This passes through altogether simple means such as the recitation of the Rosary, here between the fingers and pockets of all. Penitence and the sacrifice of oneself are for the good of others.
The evening witnesses the roar of the security helicopter and the mounted police crisscrossing the surroundings, while in the intersections – where the three little shepherds are represented – the National Guard of the Republic keeps watch and Aljustrel attracts pilgrims to the houses of the birth of the three little visionaries, while songs rise in honor of Jesus in the Eucharist. Because it is to Him that the honored Immaculate Heart of Mary leads.
Much has been said and much is still being said about the consecration of Russia to Mary’s Heart and the third secret but, ultimately, Fatima invites to silence and listening, to allow oneself to be seized by the sweetness of the presence.
What Lucia Said to Me 
One cannot ignore the fact that Pope Saint John Paul II made a decision, after having consulted notably with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the future Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who was the right arm of the Prefect. It was to the latter that he entrusted the interviewing of Sister Lucia at the Carmel of Coimbra to ensure that what the Virgin Mary requested was well done and to ascertain the correctness of the interpretation of the third secret and its completion. In a book presented by Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bertone then entrusted to the late journalist, RAI’s Vatican expert Giuseppe de Carli the content of these conversations: “The Last Visionary of Fatima. What Sister Lucia Told Me,” published by Bayard and sold out, but where copies are still exchanged sometimes online. Yes, said Sister Lucia, the Virgin Mary is satisfied with the consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart, carried out by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1984. Yes, the third secret refers to the persecution of Christians in the 20th century and to the attack on John Paul II on May 13, 1981. Yes, the secret was completely revealed.
Pope Francis himself accomplished two gestures in connection with Fatima. Two months after his election, on May 13, 2013, his pontificate was entrusted to the Virgin of Fatima by the Patriarch of Lisbon Jose da Cruz Policarpo (1936-2014), at the Pope’s request. On October 13, 2013, before the statue of the Virgin of Fatima, brought especially to St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis renewed the act of entrustment of the world and not just of a nation to the Immaculate Virgin.
And in the General Audience of the Wednesday preceding his pilgrimage (May 10) the Pontiff entrusted the “temporal and eternal” fate of humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And, like his predecessors, he will offer the Virgin Mary a golden rose, and the spiritual bouquet of all those accompanying him in prayer.
The night will be full of expectation for those who are traveling, restorative for those who have arrived, especially for the small children whom courageous parents wished to have take part in the celebration of two children associated forever to the happiness and light of the Risen One.
The world’s media has sent its correspondents for these two historic days. Fatima, at this time of the “third world war in pieces,” will be a center of reports, witnessing the universal spread of the message and gestures of Popes, to the measure of the history of people on the five continents. The solicitude of Popes embraces the whole of humanity, for its happiness, as it did a century ago for the little shepherds whose holiness they come to attest.
In his message in preparation of the pilgrimage, Pope Francis said simply — and there is nothing else to add: “I will entrust you all to the Virgin, asking her to whisper to each one of you: ‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that will lead you to God.’” All of you.

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Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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