Some 200,000 pilgrims gathered in the villages of Fatima in central Portugal on Friday (13 May) to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in 1917.
Some 200,000 pilgrims gathered in the villages of Fatima in central Portugal on Friday (13 May) to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in 1917. Pilgrims traditionally visit the shrine twice a year.
SYNOPSIS: For Roman Catholics from all over the world, it's one of the holiest pilgrimages in the Catholic calender. Crowds waving white handkerchieves gather at the start of the festival to watch as a "farewell procession" carries a statue of the Virgin Mary towards the holy shrine.
Cardinal Humberto De Medeiros, the Archbishop of Boston, conducted this year's ceremony. The first national pilgrimage to the village took place in 1927.
The thousands of worshippers began to arrive in Fatima on Thursday night (12 May). Since the vision was first reported, the village has become a major tourist attraction. However, for many years, there was a reluctance by the church to accept the appearance as genuine.
But in 1930 the church officially recognised the visions. This year, many of the pilgrims walked hundreds of miles to pray at the shrine. Some of them, like the refugees from the former Portuguese East Indian colony of Timor. carried banners with the names of their home towns.
According to historical records, the Virgin Mary appeared to the children in a series of visions. She reportedly revealed herself as the Lady of the Rosary, and asked for a chapel to be built there for her. Immediately afterward a solar phenomenon occurred. A gold replica recalling the phenomenon was made to commemorate the event after its recognition in 1930.
The Presentation of the relic is the highlight of the celebrations, and there have been numerous reports of people being cured at the shrine during past celebrations. Many devout Catholics, some carrying children, crawl around the sanctuary on their knees.
One of the largest crowds, over a million people, gathered on the 50th anniversary ten years ago when Pope Paul gave mass.
At the end of the ceremony, Cardinal Medeiros and Cardinal Ribeiro gave communion to the invalids during a mass conducted by Cardinal Medeiros. In the traditional prayer for peace, the Cardinal denounced the inter-national arms race, and said it should be considered a crime against humanity.