The 55-year-old Portuguese cardinal was preaching at a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on the anniversary of the day in 1917 that three shepherd children — Lucia dos Santos, Francisco, and Jacinta Marto — saw the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Addressing a reduced number of pilgrims due to coronavirus restrictions, the cardinal said: “What did the Virgin ask to humanity, through the little shepherds? Prayer, penance, and conversion, that is, concrete means of interior reconstruction.”
As he preached, priests and pilgrims sat socially distanced inside marked-out circles and in long rows as a breeze blew across the shrine.
With the wind tugging at his vestments, the cardinal noted that Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.
A year after the incident, on May 13, 1982, the Polish pope traveled to Portugal to thank Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life.
The cardinal said: “Thirty-nine years ago, Pope St. John Paul II presided at this Eucharist ‘to thank Divine Providence in this place which the Mother of God seems to have chosen in a particular way’ that his life had been spared in the attack in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. And John Paul II’s appeal is that one should recognize in Fatima the preparation of a new spiritual time.”
Referring to Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, the cardinal said that post-pandemic reconstruction would require a profound sense of fraternity.
He said: “The world, exhausted by this pandemic that is still going on, and which requires each one of us to be vigilant and responsible, is not only hungry and thirsty for normality: it needs new visions, other grammars, it needs us to take the risk to have dreams.”
“Especially to the young people, and to the young Portuguese who are preparing to welcome the World Youth Day in 2023, I want to say from Fatima: instead of being afraid, have dreams. Discover that God is the ally of your most beautiful dreams. Dare to dream of a better world. Feel that the future depends on the quality and consistency of your dreams.”
He continued: “And finally, I turn to you, dear pilgrims. And I want to tell you that I feel not only close to all of you, but truly consider myself one of you. The message of Fatima, seen from the outside, seems formatted and austere. And many, only seeing the surface of the shrine, see only the dramatic expression of so many tears, demands, and promises. But the pilgrims to Fatima experience that it is much more than that.”
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Referring to the Gospel reading for the Mass, John 19:25-27, which was proclaimed in several languages, he said: “What we experience is that we come here restless, empty, divided, irreconcilable or thirsty, that we come here precipitously like the Prodigal Son, and that Mary fulfills in us — with what mercy, with what unforgettable sweetness — the command of love that she received from Jesus: ‘Woman, here is your son,’ ‘here are your children.’”
In 2020, the annual May 13 celebrations at the Fatima shrine took place for the first time without the physical presence of pilgrims due to COVID-19 restrictions.
ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news partner, reported that this year’s international anniversary pilgrimage at Fatima began on Wednesday evening with the rosary and a candlelit procession as the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried from the Chapel of the Apparitions to the outdoor Prayer Area.
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