A visibly tired but determined Pope John Paul II completed his two-day visit to Fatima, Portugal, on Saturday, May 13. His long-awaited beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three children who witnessed the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, was an historic event. They are the first children to be beatified in the history of the Roman Catholic Church who were not martyrs.But the beatification was overshadowed by the partial revelation of Fatima's "third secret," which has been the subject of speculation for decades. As the pope approached the Basilica of Fatima in his special vehicle, the popemobile, he was greeted by tens of thousands of pilgrims singing a popular song about the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. According to official estimates, 650,000 pilgrims came to Fatima, a small town of 8,000 inhabitants in central Portugal, for the pope's visit. Fatima has become sacred ground for most of the overwhelmingly Catholic Portuguese. Five to six million pilgrims visit Fatima every year. The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima began on May 13, 1917 and ended on October 13 the same year. On the 13th day of each month during that period, the Virgin Mary, shining "brighter than the sun," is said to have appeared on top of a tree. The visionaries were three shepherd children—Lucia dos Santos (age 10 at the time, and now a 93-year-old Carmelite nun), and her two cousins, nine-year-old Francisco Marto and seven-year-old Jacinta Marto. As word of the apparitions spread more and more people began flocking to Fatima.Lucia claims that the Virgin revealed a three-part secret on July 13, 1917. The first part was a vision of Hell and salvation. The second part foresaw the spread of atheism in Russia and its ultimate ...1
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