'The Virgin Mary's message is now more relevant than in 1917'

'The Virgin Mary's message is now more relevant than in 1917'

Clémence Houdaille, Fatima/ la-croix.com

Father Carlos Cabecinhas, the rector of the Shrine of Fatima, believes the message of the Virgin Mary encouraging prayer for world peace, is as critical today as it ever was. "La Croix" spoke to him.

One hundred years after the apparitions of Mary, which occurred between 13 May and 13 October 1917, who are the pilgrims that come here?

Father Carlos Cabecinhas: Of the 5.3 million believers who came to Fatima last year, 75 per cent were Portuguese from all social backgrounds and walks of life. The remaining 25 per cent were from Europe, but also from further afield.

Asians, mostly from India and South Korea, make up the fastest-growing group. The shrine took on a more international dimension thanks to the popes in the second half of the 20th century. They all came here either before or during their pontificates.

Why does Fatima’s message continue to move people?

Father Carlos Cabecinhas: The message that came at Fatima, asking people to pray for world peace, is even more relevant today as it was one hundred years ago. The apparitions happened during the First World War. Today we are going through what Pope Francis calls “a piecemeal third world war”.

The Virgin’s message invites each of us to do what we can in service of peace around us. One hundred years ago in Europe, political regimes were waging war against God. Today there are political regimes who hide the war that is being waged. There are many similarities.

What do pilgrims seek here?

Father Carlos Cabecinhas: First and foremost they come here for the strong spiritual experience, to ask something from God, or to give thanks for a blessing bestowed. Many people come back regularly. Popular piety is very important here, and we really support it.

After the Second Vatican Council, popular practice in religion was a little neglected, highlighting the importance of liturgy instead. But we have rediscovered the importance of popular piety because liturgy doesn’t account for the entirety of Christian spiritual life.

It is a way of touching God’s people when it is done with the right balance. The laity is now increasingly educated, and liturgy is taking a fairer place.

What does the site mean for the Portuguese Church?

Father Carlos Cabecinhas: When he visited in 2010, Benedict XVI declared Fatima the spiritual heart of Portugal, explaining that without the message that was given here, the history of the 20th century couldn’t be fully understood. Its prophetic dimension had a clear influence on the reading of the last century. John-Paul II witnessed the fall of communism in light of the message of the Virgin at Fatima.

What are you expecting from the visit of Pope Francis?

Fr CC: After Paul VI’s visit, the three visits by John-Paul II and then Benedict XVI, this will be the sixth papal visit to the site and it brings great joy.

He will let us be reminded of the importance of Fatima for the universal church. Francis will also see the bishops of Portugal who will gather here for the centenary of the apparitions of Mary, but he won’t travel anywhere else in the country.

He has done the same for other one-off visits where he travels to other European countries for specific purposes. In doing so he is demonstrating that he comes here as a pilgrim among other pilgrims.

Since the apparitions, we pray for the Pope here in Fatima. We will remind him of this prayer communion. And we are ready to listen to Pope Francis’ prophetic words. He has accustomed us to hearing such moving discourse!

Two of the three visionaries are to be canonized in Fatima on Saturday. What does this canonization mean for Portuguese Catholics?

Father Carlos Cabecinhas: Canonizations normally take place in Rome. The fact that Francisco and Jacinta Marto have been canonized in Fatima shows the significance of the shrine on a world scale. The relics of these two new saints are housed here in the Basilica of the Rosary.

The double canonization is the pinnacle of the centenary celebrations which in themselves are already brilliant events, already made extra special with the Pope’s visit.

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:39
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