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Pope makes 2 Fatima children saints on centenary of visions

13 May 2017

Pope Francis says Catholic leaders do a "great injustice" when they say God judges sinners when in fact he forgives sinners with his mercy. However, the process could not start until after her death. He recently concluded an entire Holy Year on trying to show the more merciful side of the church.

Two huge tapestries made from century-old photographs of the children dressed in the traditional peasant garb of the times hung from the church that is now the focal point of the sanctuary visited by about seven million people each year.

At the shrine, pilgrims were reciting the rosary or praying quietly as they await the pope's arrival and the Mass.

On his first foreign trip as pope, to Brazil, he prayed at the shrine to the Madonna at Aparecida.

There was no official crowd estimate, but the main square has a capacity of 600,000 and was overflowing.

"We will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go out to every periphery, to make known God's justice and peace", he said.

"I think it has a very big importance for the whole world", said Vanessa, a worshipper who had made the pilgrimage to the shrine from the Philippines.

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Francis is in Fatima to mark the anniversary of the "visions" of the Virgin Mary reported by three shepherd children 100 years ago.

However, rather than being accompanied by music and hymns, this return procession is done completely in silence, Fr. Pereira said, adding that "it's wonderful that even when the shrine is full of people, all the people make absolute silence because it's a sign that we want to listen to the presence of God".

He spoke after spending several minutes in silent prayer before the statue of the Madonna at the chapel built in Fatima at the site of the apparitions.

The basilica's bells rang out as the pontiff passed in his popemobile through a sea of people waving flags from dozens of countries.

The main objective of the trip to the central Portuguese town, which receives around 7 million people a year, is a huge open-air Mass on Saturday to declare two of the children saints. They are the youngest saints of the Church who were not martyrs. They said she revealed to them three "secrets" - apocalyptic messages foreshadowing World War II, hell, the rise and fall of communism and the death of a pope - and urged them to pray for peace and turn away from sin. He stopped to greet an elderly woman in a wheelchair, kissed children on the head and embraced a handicapped man.

It's been this way in Fatima since the very beginning, he said, noting that the bishop who arrived on site after the diocese was established in 1918 immediately wrote a letter to all parish priests in Fatima saying the shrine "is a place of silence, of prayer and of sacrifice".

Pope Francis will preside over the vigil after a meeting with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and a brief visit to the chapel at the Monte Real airbase where he lands.

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The Virgin Mary is said to have appeared six times between May and October 1917 to Jacinta, then 7, Francisco, 9 and their cousin Lucia, 10.

The pope is leaving Saturday after a visit of less than 24 hours.

Fatima, Portugal (CNA/EWTN News) - "Silence is important, because only in silence can we listen to the Word of God, only in silence can we listen to the whispers of God in our hearts", Fr. Francisco Pereira, chaplain of the Fatima Shrine, told CNA in an interview.

The shrine was built where three shepherd children said 100 years ago that the Virgin Mary appeared to them in "visions".

Open-air Masses are held in the shrine's vast square, in front of its basilica.

In the open space around Fatima special cement blocks have been placed to avoid the possibility of militant attacks such as those in Stockholm and Nice. Authorities said they expected 1 million people.

He beatified Jacinta and Francisco in 2000 - the final step before sainthood. Hotels and apartments were sold out months ago.

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