An estimated 500,000 onlookers gathered in the town of Fatima, Portugal as Pope Francis canonized two of the sibling children who claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared before them. Today marks the 100-year anniversary of the reported apparitions.
Pope Francis was showered with rose petals as crowds of worshipers lined the route of his motorcade shouting, “Viva o papa” as the popemobile turned into Fatima Square. Francis is the first Latin American and Jesuit Pope to be inaugurated and is highly celebrated in predominantly Catholic Portugal.
On May 13, 1917, three children: Jacinta and Francisco Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos, claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared before them while they were tending sheep. The children returned to the site at Fatima no fewer than six times, between May and October 1917, and were entrusted with what has now become known as the “three secrets of Fatima.”
The first secret, according to Lucia dos Santos and published in her 1941 memoirs, was a momentary vision of hell and occurred on July 13, 1917. The second secret involved a prediction regarding the end of World War l, and that another war would occur during the incumbency of Pope Puis XI, if Russia did not convert. The third secret was not disclosed until 1943, when, on her sick bed, Bishop Silvato asked Lucia to make a written record of the details of the apparition due to her illness and in the event of her death. Although Lucia eventually committed to writing down the details of the apparition, she was reluctant to do so as she recalled that the Virgin Mary had asked her not to reveal the secret. In June 1944, Lucia recorded the third secret and the envelope was passed to the Bishop. Lucia wrote the following.
“I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine… at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!'”
Initially, the revelations made by the three children were doubted and they were threatened that, if they did not recant their accounts, they would be sentenced to death by burning oil. The children remained steadfast in their belief and versions of the apparitions. However, on October 13, 1917, crowds flocked to the site at Fatima after the children revealed that the Virgin Mary had revealed that she would perform a miracle that day. Witnesses reported that the sun appeared to spin in the sky, and the event was dubbed the “miracle of the sun.” By 1930, the Portuguese church had deemed the apparitions as authentic.
By 1919, two of the children, Jacinta and Francisco, who were canonized today by Pope Francis, had died from influenza. Lucia, who became known as Lucia of Fatima, went on to become a Catholic Carmelite nun and died in 2005. The three children recounted that the Virgin Mary had asked them to turn away from sin and to pray for peace.
The pontiff prayed at the chapel that has been built on the site where the apparitions occurred, and as has become customary when a pope visits a Marian shrine, left a gold rose. Pope Francis hopes to spread the message of peace and love among his followers, as the three children of Fatima did while World War I raged on 100 years ago.
[Featured Image by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty images]