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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

Pope in Fatima to honor simple children who changed church

May 12, 2017

FATIMA, Portugal (AP) — Pope Francis and pilgrims from around the world are flocking to a Catholic shrine town in Portugal to honor two poor, illiterate shepherd children whose visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago marked one of the most important events of the 20th-century Catholic Church.

Francis arrives today to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions and canonize the children. He is hoping the message of peace that they reported 100 years ago, when Europe was in the throes of World War I, will resonate with the Catholic faithful today.

For days now, church groups, families and individuals have made their way to Fatima, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon, some on their knees in prayer. Carrying candles, rosaries and roses, they have made their way to the statue dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima or tossed wax body parts — ears, hearts, limbs — into a huge fire to pray for healing.

It’s the second time I am here with a pope, first with John Paul II and now with Papa Francisco,” said pilgrim Elisabete Fradique Conceicao in between rain showers Thursday. “They are simple men and that simplicity makes sense when you think what happened here 100 years ago.”

On May 13, 1917, while they were grazing their sheep, the children saw the first of a half-dozen visions of the Virgin Mary. They said she revealed to them three “secrets” — apocalyptic messages foreshadowing World War II, hell, the rise and fall of communism and the death of a pope — and urged them to pray for peace and turn away from sin.

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