The faith is based on the Resurrection of Christ, not on miracles, apparitions and private revelations. But there is no doubt that in some places the “supernatural” is somehow closer and stronger. Without doubt, Fatima is one of those places. A hundred years after the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children, today Francis, fourth Pontiff to visit the sanctuary, will proclaim saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the two cousins of Sister Lucy, first children not martyr to be canonized.
A recurrence and an event that is the main “official” reason of the presence of the Pope in Portugal. But the deeper meanings of this apostolic journey are summarized in the motto: “With Mary, pilgrim in hope and peace“. First of all a pilgrimage of marked Marian impression. The Virgin asked to the seers to recite the Rosary every day. And that is what the Pontiff did yesterday evening. In the greeting to the journalists present on the Papal Flight, Francis said that this is “a journey of prayer, of encounter with the Lord and with the Holy Mother of God”. Indeed, a Marian pilgrimage in the strict sense.
Then hope and peace. These are two aspects that are particularly close to the heart of Francis. The Pope devoted a long catechesis during the Wednesday audiences to the theological virtues. On peace, he never misses an opportunity to intervene. It is a fil rouge, that binds this journey to the previous ones, like the latest in Egypt or the one in the Central African Republic during which he opened the first Holy Door of the Jubilee Year.
But in Fatima the theme of peace is present in a particular manner. Here the Virgin promised the end of the First World War and asked to pray for the conversion of Russia. And then there is the Third Secret. That would not be linked only to the attack suffered by John Paul II but, according to the authoritative interpretation of Benedict XVI, concerns the persecution of the Church, in addition to the suffering caused by sin within the Church herself. There is no doubt that Christians today live times even worse than those of the early centuries. The Pope often repeats it. For this reason the message of Fatima, a hundred years later, is still very timely. Prayer and penance. Words that the world today does not even want to hear. But the Pope, a pilgrim of peace and hope, is there, in Fatima, at the feet of Our Lady, to remind us that the Church (and every Christian) before the reforms needs conversion. And he did it using the words (“bishop dressed in white”) of the Third Secret. Because obviously he recognizes himself in the hermeneutics of Ratzinger with regard to message of Our Lady that therefore would not be related to a single Pontiff (in particular John Paul II) but to the Popes in general and as a result to the whole Christian community.
It is interesting, then, the way in which Francis has outlined the figure of the Virgin Mary in his greeting in the Chapel of the Apparitions for the blessing of the candles. Not a “Mary sketched by individual sensitivity that see her holding the executioner arm of God ready to punish: a Mary better than Christ, seen as the fierce Judge” or “A “Holy card” to which we resort to receive low-cost favours” but a “Teacher of the spiritual life“. Pope Francis invites to resort to her and to her intercession to cure the ills of the contemporary world: divisions (once again the reference to the walls), wars, famines, disregard for human life. Provided we follow the advices of Our Lady. Prayer and penance.