VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message John Paul II sent to the bishop of Coimbra, Portugal, and read Tuesday during the funeral of Sister Lucia, the last witness of the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, special papal envoy, presided at the funeral Mass in the cathedral of Coimbra.
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To the Venerable Brother
Albino Mamede Cleto
Bishop of Coimbra
With profound emotion I learned that Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, at the age of 97 years, was called by the heavenly Father to the eternal dwelling of heaven. She has thus reached the end to which she always aspired in prayer and in the silence of the convent.
The liturgy has reminded us in these days that death is the common heritage of the children of Adam, but at the same time it has assured us that Jesus, with the sacrifice of the cross, has opened to us the gates of immortal life. We recall these certainties of the faith at the moment we give our last farewell to this humble and devout Carmelite, who consecrated her life to Christ, Savior of the world.
The visit of the Virgin Mary, which little Lucia received in Fatima together with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta in 1917, was for her the beginning of a singular mission to which she remained faithful until the end of her days. Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great fidelity to the Lord and of joyful adherence to his divine will.
I remember with emotion the various meetings I had with her and the bonds of spiritual friendship that, with the passing of time, were intensified. I have always felt supported by the daily gift of her prayer, especially in the harsh moments of trial and suffering. May the Lord reward her amply for the great and hidden service she has done to the Church.
I love to think that the one who has received Sister Lucia in the passing from earth to heaven has been precisely She whom she saw in Fatima so many years ago. May the Holy Virgin accompany the soul of this devoted daughter of hers to the happy encounter with the divine Spouse.
To you I entrust, Venerated Brother, the task of expressing to the nuns of the Carmel of Coimbra the certainty of my spiritual closeness, while, for their interior consolation in the moment of separation, I impart an affectionate blessing, which I extend to the families, to you, Venerated Brother, to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my special envoy, and to all the participants in the sacred rite of suffrage.
Vatican, 14 February 2005
John Paul II
[Translation by ZENIT]