The Vatican has announce Pope Francis is to visit the Fatima shrine in Portugal next year on the centenary of the date when three shepherd children said the Virgin Mary first appeared to them above an olive tree. The announcement by the Vatican said that on the occasion of the centenary of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Cova da Iria [Portugal], and welcoming the invitation of the President of the Republic and of the Portuguese Bishops, His Holiness Pope Francis will go on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima from 12-13 May.
Francis will be the fourth pope to visit Fatima. The last one was Benedict XVI in 2010, when he also visited the cities of Lisbon and Porto.
In the spring and summer of 1916, nine-year-old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep at the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fátima, Portugal. They experienced the visitation of an angel on three occasions. The angel, who identified himself as “The Angel of Peace”, taught them prayers, to make sacrifices, and to spend time in adoration of the Lord.
On 13 May 1917, the children saw a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun”. The woman wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray “the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war”.
The second appearance occurred on 13 June, the feast of St. Anthony, patron of the local parish church. The three children claimed to have experienced in total six apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between 13 May and 13 October 1917.
John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him to the Roman Catholic sanctuary at Fátima and it was placed in the crown of the Virgin’s statue.