Catholic News Herald

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FATIMA, Portugal — Since 1930, when local church authorities declared as genuine the reports of Marian apparitions to three Portuguese shepherd children, the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima has been one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.

Pope John Paul II will make his second pilgrimage to Fatima as pontiff when he visits the shrine May 12-13. The visit will mark the 10th anniversary of the attempted assassination of the pope on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square.

The children said the apparitions occurred six times between May 13 and Oct. 13, 1917, at Cova da Iria. The three young shepherds, Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, said they saw the figure of a lady brighter than the sun who stood on a cloud in an evergreen tree.

At the time the apparitions began, Francisco was 8 years old, Jacinta was 4, and Lucia was 10. Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta in 1920, both of influenza. Lucia became a Carmelite nun and still lives in Coimbra, Portugal.

The children said that Mary called for frequent recitation of the rosary, urged works of mortification for the conversion of sinners, called for devotion to herself under the title of her Immaculate Heart, asked that the people of Russia be consecrated to her under this title, and asked that Catholics receive Communion on the first Saturday of each month.

As an adult, Lucia dos Santos wrote a three-part account of the apparitions for church officials. The first part concerned a vision of hell. The second dealt with the conversion of the peoples of Russia through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The third part is the unpublished portion referred to as the ''third secret'' of Fatima.

Many people have speculated that the portion remains unpublished because it is a prophecy of catastrophic events, but Vatican officials deny that is the case.
— Catholic News Service