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Pope Francis will canonize two of the shepherd's of Fatima


Siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto were illiterate. Their life was typical of humble families in the rural areas of Portugal in the first part of the twentieth century: they spent their days in the fields, taking care of their herds. Their lives changed, however, with the apparitions of the Virgin Mary which took place between May and October, 1917. At the time they were seven and nine years of age, respectively.

Rector, Portuguese College (Rome)
"It is interesting to see how God, through the Virgin Mary, addressed the children. She used the language of that time, which to us may seem archaic, and used a language for children. The children were captivated by the message, and by Our Lady. They had the capacity to let themselves be captivated.”

The first apparition of Our Lady was on May 13. She told them that she would return on the thirteenth day of the following month. The message of conversion entrusted to them by the Virgin Mary radically changed their lives and their character. They began to spend much time in prayer, asking for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. 

News of the appearances attracted hundreds of people, but also aroused the suspicions of the local authorities. Francisco, Jacinta and the other visionary, Lucia, were sequestered by the police.

"The Masonry, which had a great influence in Portugal, wanted to convince Jacinta and Francisco to say that the visions of Fatima of which they had spoken about were their invention, were their fantasy, and were not real. To convince Jacinta and Francisco to say this, they took Lucia away from them. They told them that they had killed Lucia by putting her in a cauldron of boiling oil which was false, but they threatened them with the same fate. The children responded, 'You can do whatever you want, but we cannot lie. We have seen the Virgin Mary.'”

The only one of the three visionaries to live to a ripe old age was Lucia. Francisco and Jacinta fell ill and died a few years after the apparitions, in 1919 and 1920, at the age of nine and 10 years, respectively. 

Their young age was not an obstacle to their beatification by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000. Before that, only young children who were martyrs had been declared saints.

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