Pope declares Fátima visionary venerable

Pope John Paul II meets Sister Lucia at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal on May 13, 2000. (CNS photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Recognizing that she lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way, Pope Francis has declared venerable Sister Lúcia dos Santos, who, with her cousins, reported seeing Mary when she was a child in Fátima, Portugal.

Sister Lúcia was 10 years old when she and her cousins first saw Mary at Fátima on May 13, 1917. But her sainthood cause examined her entire life and the huge volumes of correspondence she wrote as a cloistered Carmelite nun.

Much of that correspondence involved her attempts to clarify what became known as the “secrets” of Fatima, which Sister Lúcia made known. In the 1930s, she shared the first two parts. They included a vision of hell shown to the children, along with prophecies concerning the outbreak of World War II, the rise of communism and the ultimate triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, especially in Russia if the country was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart.

Sister Lúcia wrote down the third part of the message, sealed it in an envelope and gave it to her local bishop. The message was sent to the Vatican in 1957, where successive popes read it, but decided not to reveal its contents.

St. John Paul II ordered the so-called “third secret” of Fatima to be published in 2000; he believed the secret, actually a vision, referred to the 20th-century persecution of the church under Nazism and communism and spoke of the 1981 attempt to assassinate him. The pope was shot May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first of the Fatima apparitions.

Sister Lúcia died in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2005 at the age of 97. Pope Francis canonized her cousins, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, in 2017.

Pope Francis also declared venerable Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, founder of the first Catholic order of African American nuns. The pope signed the decrees recognizing their heroic virtues June 22. A miracle attributed to their intercession is still necessary before they can be beatified.

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