Saturday, August 5, 2023

Pope Francis Returns to Fatima

[The Vatican media broadcast with multiple cameras of the Pope praying at Fatima’s chapel of apparitions provided a moment for this moving “blend” of images captured in a screenshot.]

During this week of encounters in Portugal with young people, Pope Francis—in speaking so radically about God’s love—has emphasized its concreteness in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary: “God loves us as we are, not how we want to be or how society wants us to be. As we are! He calls us with our faults and failings, our limitations and our hopes in life. That is how God calls us. Trust, because God is a Father and a Father who loves us. This is not very easy. And for this reason we need a great help, the Mother of the Lord. She is our Mother too. She is our Mother.

This morning, the Pope traveled north of Lisbon, to visit for the second time the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima (his first visit was in 2017). He prayed the Rosary with a group of disabled people and some 200,000 pilgrims. Francis undoubtedly bore in his heart in a special way the ongoing and increasing suffering of so many people due to the war in Ukraine, as well as the many other wars throughout the world. He didn’t read his prepared address, however, speaking only a few words informally after the Rosary. The event as a whole seemed to express its profundity in its simplicity, prayer, and silence.

Pope Francis knows well the connection between Mary’s prophetic appearances at Fatima in 1917 and the catastrophic world wars of the 20th century—the consequences of which continue to imperil the world even to this day. He consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 2022. Attentive to the message of Fatima, the Pope emphasizes that war is born from sin, and exposes the horrendous violence and destructive power of sin. Peace can only come from the heart, as the fruit of repentance in faith and love.

In his brief remarks after the Rosary, Francis stressed that “Mary made herself present here [at Fatima] in a special way, so that the disbelief of so many hearts would open up to Jesus—with her presence she points us to Jesus.” The Pope continues to place his hope for peace in the love of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the grace of the conversion of our hearts, and the love for one another that will enable dialogue, empower creativity in the ways of reconciliation, and bring justice, healing, and fraternity beyond what we can now imagine.

Shortly after the service, Vatican Media posted a prayer from Pope Francis’s written text, as a confirmation of what he carried in the silence of his heart to Mary’s heart at Fatima.