As the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions approaches, Portuguese Catholic Church officials announced on Monday that thousands of pages have been gathered to testify to the holiness of Sister Lucia dos Santos – one of the original three children who were witnesses to the famous Marian apparition.
The documentation gathered for Sr. Lucia consists of over 15,000 letters, testimonies, and other documents that would support the nun’s cause for beatification. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra, Portugal noted that these pages have taken more than eight years to track down, as they consist of personal letters and witness statements from more than 60 people.
The pages were presented at a church ceremony at Sr. Lucia’s convent in Coimbra and will also be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints for approval, in order to proceed towards the next steps of canonization. The case will also be reviewed by Pope Francis.
Of all Marian apparitions, those relating to Our Lady of Fatima are among the most famous. On May 13, 1917, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto – 9 and 7 – and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, took their sheep to graze near the Portuguese farming town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary.
After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary then appeared to the children on the 13th of every month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance, reparation and prayer.
In 1930, the Catholic Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Pope Paul VI May 13, 1967, and later by Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
St. John Paul II had a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. After a harrowing assassination attempt in 1981, he credited his survival to her miraculous intervention. As a sign of his gratitude, he placed the bullet from the failed assassination in her crown.
“Pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven. United to Christ, as a priest and victim, I offer my sufferings for the Church and the world,” Pope John Paul II said on that occasion.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima in May for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.
Sr. Lucia’s cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, died at young ages from pneumonia and were beatified in 2000. Sr. Lucia died in 2005 at the age of 97 at her convent in Coimbra.