We will be posting updates and photos Friday and Saturday as Pope Francis visits Fatima and prepares for the canonization of Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
Click here for a full listing of America's previous coverage of Fatima.
May 13, 2017 6:00 p.m.: Gerard O'Connell, America's Vatican Correspondent provides more context on the Pope's statements about Medjugorje
When asked about the apparitions at Medjugorje and the religious fervor they have created, Pope Francis gave a three part answer.
First, he gave credence to the original apparitions from 1981 and said the investigation should continue. Second, he raised serious questions and doubts about the subsequent and ongoing apparitions. Third, he recognized that many people who go to Medjugorje have faith experiences that change their lives. He felt this pastoral dimension should be further examined.
“All apparitions or alleged apparitions belong to the private sphere. They are not part of the [church’s] ordinary public magisterium,” said Francis. In his time in Argentina, he has dealt with similar events.
Benedict XVI set up a special commission to study the Medjugorje phenomenon and appointed Italian cardinal, Camillo Ruini, as its president. Francis received this 2014 report and judged it to be “very, very good.” But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cast some doubts on it, and sent all the documentation to each of its members, including opinions that were contrary to the final Ruini report.
When Francis heard about this, he made it clear that he was quite unhappy about it. He said, “It was like putting the Ruini report up for auction.” While the Ruini report encouraged further investigation into the original apparitions, it had doubts about the ongoing apparitions. Referencing the doubts about the ongoing apparitions Francis noted, “I personally am even nastier. I prefer the Lady Mother to the Madonna head of a telegraphic office that sends a message every day. These presumed apparitions do not have much value. That is my personal opinion. There are some who think that the Madonna says: come on this day at that hour, and I will give a message to the visionary.” Francis was clearly dismissive of the ongoing apparitions.
Francis has appointed a Polish bishop, Henryk Hoser, to look into the questions from a pastoral point of view and provide the final word. The Pope is sensitive to the Ruini report’s third point, “[In Medjugorje] people are converted, they meet God, their lives change. And this is not due to a magic wand. One cannot deny this fact.”
-Gerard O'Connell, Vatican Correspondent
Editor's note (correction)—May 15; 2:52 p.m.: This item was updated to reflect the release of the official Vatican transcript of the above dialogue. Pope Francis did not say that the Medjugorje apparitions “do not have value,” as America reported based on an informal translation, but that they “do not have much value.”
May 13, 2017 4:20 p.m.:Pope expresses personal doubts about Medjugorje during a plane press conference while returning from Fatima.
Asked May 13 about the authenticity of the Marian apparitions, which reportedly began in 1981, the pope referred to the findings of a commission chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the retired papal vicar of Rome.
"The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse," the pope told reporters traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal. "I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time."
"This isn't Jesus' mother," he said. "And these alleged apparitions don't have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, 'Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?' No!"
Three of the six young people who originally claimed to have seen Mary in Medjugorje in June 1981 say she continues to appear to them each day; the other three say Mary appears to them once a year now.
A diocesan commission studied the alleged apparitions in 1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986 with more members; and the then-Yugoslavian bishops' conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions concluded that they could not affirm that a supernatural event was occurring in the town.
Despite his personal doubts, the pope said that the "spiritual and pastoral facts cannot be denied: People go there and convert, people who find God, who change their lives. There isn't magic there," he said.
In February, Pope Francis appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Medjugorje each year. He told reporters those people deserve spiritual care and support.
-Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
May 13, 2017 9:00am.: Full Coverage of the Pope's homily from the canonization Mass in Fatima
May 13, 2017 6:50 a.m.: Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, Pray for Us.
History was made at the shrine of Fatima at 10.30 a.m. local time on May 13 when, amid scenes of great rejoicing and prolonged applause, Pope Francis declared that Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta are saints. They are in heaven with Our Lady who first appeared to them, and their first cousin Lucia, in this very place exactly one hundred years ago.
The three young visionaries, who were all under ten years old at the time of that first encounter with “the beautiful Lady” – as Jacinta called her, are buried here side by side in the basilica. Today, Francis canonized them at the beginning of Mass on the steps of the basilica before hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Portugal and many other countries including the United States and China.
- Gerard O'Connell, Vatican Correspondent
May 12, 2017 5:30 p.m.: Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy.
At a deeply-moving candlelit prayer service at the Shrine of Fatima on the eve of the centenary of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima, Pope Francis set out in his brief but important talk at the prayer vigil to ensure that the Marian devotion celebrated here and elsewhere in the world is truly faithful to the image of Mary who is presented in the Gospels and venerated by the church
He contrasted the Mary of the Gospels who was the first to follow Jesus on “the narrow way of the cross” with the deformed image that people at times have of her as someone who is “unapproachable and impossible to imitate”, or as a “plaster statue from whom we beg favors at little cost”, or as “a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge.”
Then, in clear and uncompromising words, he reminded everyone that “a great injustice is done to God’s grace whenever we say that sins are punished by his judgment, without first saying—as the Gospel clearly does—that they are forgiven by his mercy! Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy.”
- Gerard O'Connell, Vatican Correspondent
Pilgrims at candlelit prayer vigil w/Pope on eve of canonization of Francisco+Jacinta, to whom Our Lady appeared pic.twitter.com/eRslqYeZwY— Gerard O'Connell (@gerryorome) May 12, 2017
May 12, 2017 3:00 p.m.: Pope Francis references third secret in prayer
It was both surprising and significant that as he prayed Pope Francis chose to use the words of the third secret of Fatima to describe himself “as a bishop dressed in white”, interceding for his people. It was his way of saying that the message of Fatima did not end in the 20th century, on the contrary, it is more than ever relevant in this new century.
- Gerard O'Connell, Vatican Correspondent
May 12, 2017 1:15 p.m.: Pope Francis is driving through the crowd of hundreds of thousands in an esplanade twice the size of his normal route at St. Peters in Rome.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims wait for Pope Francis to come and pray here in chapel of the Apparitions, Fatima pic.twitter.com/WVyJNyR1GS— Gerard O'Connell (@gerryorome) May 12, 2017
May 12, 2017 12:20 p.m.:On the flight to Portugal, Anna Eliza Ferreira, a young Brazilian television reporter for Redevida de Televisao, asked Pope Francis to bless the child in her womb.
May 12, 2017 11:20 a.m.:Pope Francis has landed in Portugal.
Pope Francis has arrived at air base near Fatima pic.twitter.com/a494WSf4hU— Gerard O'Connell (@gerryorome) May 12, 2017
May 11, 2017:Pope Francis has a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima because it was on May 13, 1992—the 75th anniversary of the apparition—that he found out he would be named bishop.
May 10, 2017: Why is the canonization of young children such a historic event? Why is Fatima so popular?