Mary Page News items give insight into our interest areas, our outreach, and the many ways people honor Our Lady. We welcome your input and your comments.
To celebrate the month of April with Mary:
Marian Commemoration Days
Mary Page offers a variety of resources inviting study, reflection and meditation. We also list important Marian dates for each month of the year. Please see Marian Commemoration Days for the month of April.
The Eucharist with Mary
Eucharist with Mary is an answer to John Paul II's proclamation of "a special Year of the Eucharist" (2004-2005). This feature will explore facets of Mary's relationship with the Eucharist and will be updated frequently throughout this year. Our latest addition is Model of Love.
We have updated our list of The Hail Mary in Various Languages; our Bibliography of articles in Marian Studies; and our Guide to Permanent Nativity Displays around the world. We have also posted the lyrics and music of a Hymn to Our Lady of Good Counsel; and our answer to a reader's question: What is the meaning of type/antitype with regard to Mary?
New Web Addresses for The Mary Page
In order to make our web site more accessible, The Mary Page may now be reached at the following URLs: marypage.org; themarypage.org; and themarypage.net. The original address on the University of Dayton site remains active as well.
Collaboration with CatholicWeb
An important Catholic web site, CatholicWeb.com, has added The Mary Page to their list of Media Partners. They will highlight particular items from The Mary Page in their section on Catholic News. Please visit their site in return. We expect continued collaboration with them in the future.
Symbols of Grace Booklet Available at The Marian Library
The ML/IMRI recently produced, Symbols of Grace, a pamphlet showing many emblems representing Mary's Immaculate Conception along with explanatory text for each. The emblems featured in this booklet were reproduced and restored by The Society for the Preservation of the Roman Catholic Heritage. Robin Smith designed the layout, while Fr. Johann Roten and Br. William Fackovec contributed the text. These booklets are available for $1.00 per copy in The Marian Library on the 7th floor of U.D.'s Roesch Library. For more information, call 937-229-4214.
Last Chance to see the Current Exhibit!
Blessed Art Thou: Mother; Lady; Mystic; Queen, a display by Michael O'Neill McGrath inspired by black pilgrimage Madonnas, will be exhibited at The Marian Library Gallery through April 22. Copies of the beautifully illustrated book may be purchased for $30 ($10 off the retail price). Packages of notecards with artwork based upon the exhibit are also available at $5 for a set of twenty (all of the same picture).
The Marian Library Art Gallery is located on the seventh floor of the Rosech Library, and is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. For more information call 937-229-4214, or click into the virtual exhibit.
Creches and Straw Art are also on display in our museum.
Michael Duricy, webmaster for the Mary Page and IMRI graduate, is currently facilitating an on-line course on Mary for catechists through U.D.'s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. He is also an independent filmmaker. His latest production, Nesiur: The Dayton Mummy, a documentary short on the Egyptian collection at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, has been given repeat airings on Dayton Access Television, and is next scheduled for cablecast on DATV on 4/23 at 12:30 pm and 4/26 at 1:35 pm. Copies on DVD or VHS videotape are available at the circulation desk of Roesch Library.
Koehler Award Recipients Honored
Awards honoring the memories of Marianists who were influential in establishing the University of Dayton's libraries [Frank Ruhlman, Walter Klick, and Theodore Koehler] were presented to students in a ceremony in Roesch Library on April 14.
Two students received the Koehler International Student Award, which provides $300 to help international students buy textbooks. This year's awards went to Marie Michelle Wong Kung Fong and Lyala Esadova.
Started in 1996, the award is named for Father Theodore A. Koehler, S.M., the French Marianist who headed The Marian Library from 1969 to 1986. Koehler founded the International Marian Research Institute and directed it from 1974 through 1986. As Director Emeritus of ML/IMRI, he continued an active life of scholarship--as a researcher, editor and teacher--until shortly before his death on May 15, 2001.
The 56th Annual Meeting of The Mariological Society of America will be held at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Biddeford, Maine, May 18-21, 2005. This year's theme is Mary, Eschatological Icon of the Church. The program is as follows:
Attendance open to all. You need not be a member to register.
For attendees residing at the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center:
Room and Board Package:
Meals must be "reserved" on the Registration Form.
Early arrivals? Late departures?--Contact the MSA Secretariat at 937-229-4294 for information about possibilities, rates.
Payment may be made now or at the time of the meeting. Make check payable to the Mariological Society of America. Note: No refunds possible after May 13, 2005
International Marian Research Institute Course ScheduleIMRI courses for the Spring 2005 semester concluded on March 18. The course schedule through Fall 2005 is now available.
Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary (ESBVM-USA)
Next Meeting: Saturday May 7, 2005 at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.
The meting will begin at 9:30 AM. After ESBVM prayer and announcements, there will be a brief presentation by Rev. Don Lacy on ecumenical reports in the media and other recent ecumenical activity. There will be two presentations:
The Rev. Dr. J. Gentle (Anglican) will speak on "The Eucharist and Mary"
For more information click into ESBVM-USA.
Click this link for a list of all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.
You are invited to help us pray for our Prayer Corner intentions. Please take a look! This site has been updated and enhanced and now allows users to directly submit prayer requests or to volunteer as a prayer partner for these intentions!
We Have Seen, Almost Touched, Rome's Love
for her Bishop
Cardinal Bernard Law, archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica, presided at the fourth novendiali (9 days of mourning) Mass for the repose of the soul of John Paul II last evening in St. Peter's Basilica. The 5 p.m. Mass was for the Chapters of the Patriarchal Basilicas.
In his homily in Italian, Cardinal Law noted that "this basilica, St. Peter's, marks the place of the death and burial of the Fisherman. Here, on this hill, Peter followed the Lord right to the very end and, through the Paschal Mystery, entered into the glory of paradise. Here John Paul II followed the Lord right to the very end. ... Here, in this basilica, the body of the Holy Father awaits the resurrection, even if we are praying that his soul is already enjoying the eternal rest of the blessed.
"The basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls," he continued, "marks the burial place of the second founder of the new Rome, Rome built on the blood of martyrs. The missionary heart of St. Paul drove him to preach ceaselessly to all peoples. As no other, Pope John Paul II, following the example of St. Paul, went to the ends of the earth to preach Jesus Christ, and Christ crucified." He noted that St. Paul's was also "the place where our Holy Father preached the unity of all who believe in Christ, the special place of his ecumenical commitment."
"St. John Lateran," said Cardinal Law, "is the cathedral church of Rome," the church of Rome's bishop, who is the Pope. "These last days we have seen, almost touched, the most moving testimonial of the love of the faithful of Rome for their pastor, Pope John Paul II, a love the Pope returned a hundredfold."
Noting John Paul's love for Mary and his "promotion of authentic Marian devotion among Catholics," the archpriest of St. Mary Major pointed out that "the last time the Holy Father visited the basilica of St. Mary Major occurred during the last solemnity of Corpus Christi when he accompanied the Blessed Sacrament in procession from St. John Lateran to St. Mary."
Referring to "these last incredible days," Cardinal Law said "our faith and our hope have been strengthened in seeing a young Karol Wojtyla reflected in the faces of millions of young pilgrims from Italy, Poland and countless other countries." He spoke of the Pope's "youngest years, when his love for every human being lit the fire of the Holy Spirit in so many people, especially in those who were young. We also saw this in his last years of growing fragility when in his weakness he found strength in the Lord."
Cardinal Law dedicated closing remarks to St. Stanislaw, "the great bishop of Krakow, who on this day in 1079, was assassinated while he was celebrating Mass in the church of St. Michael. His tomb is in the cathedral of Krakow; and it was near this tomb that Karol Wojtyla received his episcopal ordination. Today, the liturgical memory of St. Stanislaw, our hearts are close to that of Fr. Stanislaw, Archbishop Dziwisz, for four decades the faithful secretary of John Paul II, to wish him in this very difficult moment a happy name day."
Cardinal Ratzinger's Homily at
John Paul II's Funeral Mass
Here is a translation of the homily Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave at John Paul II's funeral Mass today in St. Peter's Square.
* * *
"Follow me." The Risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. "Follow me"--this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II. Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality- our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.
These are the sentiments that inspire us, brothers and sisters in Christ, present here in St. Peter's Square, in neighboring streets and in various other locations within the city of Rome, where an immense crowd, silently praying, has gathered over the last few days. I greet all of you from my heart. In the name of the College of Cardinals, I also wish to express my respects to heads of state, heads of government and the delegations from various countries.
I greet the authorities and official representatives of other Churches and Christian Communities, and likewise those of different religions. Next I greet the archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women and the faithful who have come here from every continent; especially the young, whom John Paul II liked to call the future and the hope of the Church. My greeting is extended, moreover, to all those throughout the world who are united with us through radio and television in this solemn celebration of our beloved Holy Father's funeral.
Follow me--as a young student Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theater and poetry. Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord: Follow me! In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and theology, and then entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal Sapieha. After the war he was able to complete his studies in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow.
How often, in his letters to priests and in his autobiographical books, has he spoken to us about his priesthood, to which he was ordained on November 1, 1946. In these texts he interprets his priesthood with particular reference to three sayings of the Lord.
First: "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain" (John 15:16). The second saying is: "A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). And then: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love" (John 15:9). In these three sayings we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father. He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts.
"Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!" is the title of his next-to-last book. "Rise, let us be on our way!"--with these words he roused us from a lethargic faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today. "Rise, let us be on our way!" he continues to say to us even today. The Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And in this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep.
Finally, "abide in my love": The Pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, tells us once again today, with these words of the Lord, that by abiding in the love of Christ we learn, at the school of Christ, the art of true love.
Follow me! In July 1958, the young priest Karol Wojtyla began a new stage in his journey with the Lord and in the footsteps of the Lord. Karol had gone to the Masuri lakes for his usual vacation, along with a group of young people who loved canoeing. But he brought with him a letter inviting him to call on the primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski. He could guess the purpose of the meeting: He was to be appointed as the auxiliary bishop of Krakow.
Leaving the academic world, leaving this challenging engagement with young people, leaving the great intellectual endeavor of striving to understand and interpret the mystery of that creature which is man and of communicating to today's world the Christian interpretation of our being--all this must have seemed to him like losing his very self, losing what had become the very human identity of this young priest. Follow me--Karol Wojtyla accepted the appointment, for he heard in the Church's call the voice of Christ. And then he realized how true are the Lord's words: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it" (Luke 17:33).
Our Pope--and we all know this--never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep it for himself; he wanted to give of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment, for Christ and thus also for us. And thus he came to experience how everything which he had given over into the Lord's hands, came back to him in a new way. His love of words, of poetry, of literature, became an essential part of his pastoral mission and gave new vitality, new urgency, new attractiveness to the preaching of the Gospel, even when it is a sign of contradiction.
Follow me! In October 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla once again heard the voice of the Lord. Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the Gospel of this Mass: "Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep!" To the Lord's question, "Karol, do you love me?" the archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: "Lord you know everything; you know that I love you." The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ's flock, his universal Church.
This is not the time to speak of the specific content of this rich pontificate. I would like only to read two passages of today's liturgy which reflect central elements of his message. In the first reading, St. Peter says--and with St. Peter, the Pope himself--"In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all" (Acts 10:34-36). And in the second reading, St. Paul--and with St. Paul, our late Pope--exhorts us, crying out: "Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved" (Philippians 4:1).
Follow me! Together with the command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr's death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during the Last Supper. There Jesus had said: "Where I am going, you cannot come." Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied: "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow me afterward" (John 13:33,36). Jesus from the Supper went toward the Cross, went toward his resurrection--he entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not yet follow him. Now--after the resurrection--comes the time, comes this "afterward."
By shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes toward the cross and the resurrection. The Lord says this in these words: "when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18).
In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterward, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: "someone else will dress you." And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (cf. John 13:1).
He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil "is ultimately Divine Mercy" ("Memory and Identity," pp. 60- 61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: "In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love. ... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good" (pp. 189-190). Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.
Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God's mercy in the Mother of God. He, who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: "Behold your Mother." And so he did as the beloved disciple did: "he took her into his own home" (John 19:27)--"Totus tuus." And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.
None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing "urbi et orbi." We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Fatherís house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Original text in Italian; translation issued by Holy See]
Pope Entrusted Poland to Black Madonna
Before dying, John Paul II sent a letter to the religious of the Shrine of Jasna Gora, in Czestochowa, and gave two gold crowns as a gift for the icon of the Black Madonna.
"I entrust our Homeland, the whole Church and myself to her maternal protection," said the Pope in his letter, addressed to Izydor Matuszewski, prior general of the monks of St. Paul the Hermit, of the monastery of Jasna Gora.
And, at the end, he added "Totus tuus!" (All yours!), the motto in Latin with which he placed his pontificate in Mary's hands.
In the letter, whose contents were revealed by Vatican Radio, the Pope recalled all that God has done in his great mercy over the last 350 years for Poland through the Blessed Virgin, granting victory in defense of the monastery and the country, against a Swedish invasion.
"May these providential events be a call to unity in the building of the common good for the future of Poland and of all Poles," he wrote.
"May it be a call to care for the treasure of eternal values, so that the exercise of freedom will lead to building, and not to collapse," the Pope stated.
"I entrust to her maternal protection the Church on Polish soil so that, through the testimony of holiness and humility, hope for a better world will always be reinforced in the hearts of all believers," the Pontiff added.
Finally, John Paul II prayed "for those responsible for Poland's future, so that they will have the courage to defend every good for the benefit of the Republic."
The Faithful Are Invited to Mass for Start of
The Holy See invited all the faithful present in Rome to attend the Mass for the opening of the conclave. The Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica at 10 a.m. next Monday.
A note from the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today stated that the Mass "for the election of the Roman Pontiff" will be presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, who also presided at John Paul II's funeral Mass.
"In order to show communion in prayer on the part of the entire Church at such an important moment, cardinal non-electors, bishops, priests, deacons, and members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life are also earnestly invited to participate in the celebration, as are the lay faithful of all God's people present in Rome," added the note.
"The entire Church, spiritually united with Mary Mother of Jesus, and called to persevere unanimously in prayer following the example of the first Christian community, lifts humble and insistent prayers to the Lord, that He may illuminate the minds of the electors and bring them to agreement, in order to obtain a prompt and unanimous election of the new Pope," affirmed the note of the office, headed by Archbishop Piero Marini.
At 4.30 p.m. on Monday, the entry into conclave and the oath for the election of the new pope will take place, in keeping with the norms laid down by the "Ordo Rituum Conclavis."
The cardinal electors, preceded by a cross and the Book of the Gospels, and accompanied by the singing of the Litany of the Saints, will enter in procession from the Hall of Blessings to the Sistine Chapel where, after singing the "Veni Creator," they will pronounce the prescribed oath.
In addition to the cardinal electors, others participating in the procession include the secretary of the conclave, the master of liturgical celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the secretary of the cardinal dean, the ecclesiastic who will preach a meditation, the masters of ceremonies, the dean, and the Cappella Musicale Pontificia.
The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.
Faithful find solace at centuries-old grotto; Sanctuary on grounds of Mount
St. Mary's provides comfort to some
EMMITSBURG--As she knelt on the cold concrete of the outdoor sanctuary, Donna Hogan gazed at the statue of the Virgin Mary. The swoosh of the grotto's stream, said to run deep with healing waters, was the only sound as she bowed her head in prayer and quiet contemplation. With a flawless blue sky overhead and a crisp spring breeze at her back, Hogan, 67, of Fairfield, seemed to melt into the tranquility emanating from the grotto, a cave-like structure the size of a walk-in closet, made of stone more than 200 years ago on the side of a mountain.
The grotto, on the grounds of Mount St. Mary's University, serves as an anchor for the spiritual community in this Frederick County town 12 miles south of Gettysburg, Pa. Hogan came to pray for Pope John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church's future--and to find peace and solitude. "Coming here is always an act of love," said Hogan, who comes to the shrine nearly every day. "When I'm here, I feel the peace and grace."
The National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg is the oldest replica in the Western Hemisphere of the more famous one of the same name in France. Built in 1875, the grotto and its imposing 120-foot tower bear witness to the 18 appearances, the first of which was Feb. 11, 1858, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have made to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous in France.
The grotto marks the site of St. Mary's Church, "the Old Church on the Hill," built in 1805 by Father John DuBois, who later became the third bishop of New York. He founded what is now Mount St. Mary's University and seminary, the second-oldest Catholic college in the United States. DuBois created the grotto 200 years ago when he built the church. But it lacked a name until 1875 when the replica was completed.
About 125,000 people cross the grotto's threshold each year and enter into a natural sanctuary hard to find even in a rural setting such as Emmitsburg. This is where Hogan was Saturday, when the grotto's serenity was broken just before 3 p.m. with the clanging of the bell tower delivering news of the pope's death. "It was a terribly sad moment," she recalled as she carefully placed in the back of her car a pitcher filled with water from the stream. "Just as we were wrapping up our prayers [for those who are dying], we heard the bells."
Towering trees and marble benches line the path that leads pilgrims past a series of monuments depicting the Stations of the Cross to the grotto, where prayer candles are lit and the stream's soothing sound invites visitors to linger in prayer or deep thought. Yesterday, black fabric draped across the two columns at the grotto's entrance marked a community in mourning over the pope's death. The smells of freshly mulched flower beds draw visitors deeper into the sanctuary, first to the Corpus Christi Chapel, a diminutive structure that beckons pilgrims to its tiny altar, and then to the grotto. "We've seen more people than usual" in the days surrounding the pope's death, said the grotto's chaplain, the Rev. John J. Lombardi.
What strikes him most is not their numbers, but their mood. "Their tenor is, on one hand, sad. Yet, it's also thankful," he said. "They're recalling his beauty and holiness, and his heroic faith. ... This is bringing out in people a love of God and God's friend, Pope John Paul II." Most of the pilgrims who knelt at the grotto yesterday spoke of a sense of calm and peace, content in their belief that Pope John Paul is now in heaven.
Hogan and others said they don't know quite what to expect next--those are matters to entrust to a higher power--but they are hopeful the next pontiff will share Pope John Paul's philosophy and sense of humanity. "I think the Holy Father has set the stage for anyone to follow him," Hogan said. "We believe the Holy Spirit will guide people to vote for the right person." In the meantime, pilgrims like Letebrhan Imam, 48, of Silver Spring--who came to the United States nearly 30 years ago when she left her homeland of Eritrea to escape the war-torn East African country--said she will continue to seek solace at this slice of heaven on earth, the grotto. "I come here to feel the presence" of God, she said.
Child Prophet Who Predicted Shooting
The last member of the Fatima trio, the children who apparently saw the Virgin Mary in 1917, died this year. Now the Pope has also died--long after the attempt to assassinate him which was predicted by the Fatima prophet, Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos. In 1981 the Pope was shot on the anniversary of the Fatima children's first vision. John Paul II later said he owed his life to the Lady of Fatima.
Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was a 10-year-old shepherd when she and her two cousins said they were visited by the Virgin Mary, near the village of Fatima, Portugal. Lucia died on February 13, aged 97. The oldest of the children, she said she was the only one who heard clearly what Mary said. She went on to become a Carmelite nun, living in a monastery in central Portugal since 1948. She took no part in the Fatima cult.
Mary apparently gave the children three prophecies. The first two were that World War I would soon end but that it would be followed by an even worse war. The second was that Russia would become a communist threat to the world. The third (kept secret until 2000) was that a pope would be assassinated. It referred to a bishop dressed in white being shot. Many people have been skeptical about the 1917 events. But the late Pope John Paul II--who was shot at on the 64th anniversary of the event--truly believed them.
It is claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to the three children six times at monthly intervals between May 13 and October 13, 1917. The visions became well known. By the time of the last one about 70,000 people had gathered with the children to see what was happening. There were doubts that the events took place. Some people assumed the children were making it all up or having hallucinations. Why, after all, would the Virgin Mary visit three poorly educated shepherd children in an obscure Portuguese village? If the children were so special, why did two die young?
Francisco Marto, born on June 11, 1908, died in the great flu epidemic on April 4, 1919. His sister, Jacinta Marto, was born on March 11, 1910, and died on February 20, 1920. Others have wondered whether the children were caught up in some Church conspiracy to embarrass the government. The 1910 Portuguese revolution resulted in a government that wanted to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. Church property was confiscated and it was fashionable among university circles to be anti-Catholic.
Suddenly, in 1917, amid the gloom of the continuing war, the Virgin Mary visited the children. This seemed too coincidental. People asked if the alleged visions were being exploited by local Church officials for their own purposes. Skepticism has continued because the event has become a moneymaking opportunity. Local people make souvenirs for visitors to the shrine. The Virgin Mary's features are replicated on candles, key-rings and perfume bottles. The region's banks are among the country's most profitable. In May 2000 it was reported that the Fatima shrine had benefited from Nazi German gold. Gold bars had been sold in the early 1980s to help pay for new visitor buildings. (Portugal had been neutral in World War II and so traded with both sides).
The senior officials of the Catholic Church were not originally enthusiastic about the reported visions. It does not normally accept children as seers. It took 13 years and extensive research for the Church to accept the events. The Bishop of Leiria-Fatima announced on October 13, 1930 that they were authentic. Fatima has since become one of the Catholic Church's most important shrines, with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims journeying there each year. Mel Gibson has recently announced he will be making a film based on the events of 1917.
Despite all the skepticism and cynicism, the visions had the support of Pope John Paul II, who firmly believed that his life was saved by the Virgin Mary of Fatima. Lucia wrote down the third secret, sealed it and gave it to the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, with instructions that it not be read until 1960. The bishop turned the envelope over to the Vatican. Pope John XXIII reportedly opened the envelope in 1960 but refused to say what the secret was, saying it did not relate to his time. Fringe Fatima fanatics held hunger strikes and one even hijacked a plane to try to force the Vatican to disclose the third secret.
The Vatican tried to play down the significance of Fatima. It welcomed the faithfulness of the pilgrims but was concerned about the extremes to which some of the fanatics were willing to go to discover the details of the third vision. Then on May 13, 198--the anniversary of the visions--Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish terrorist, shot Pope John Paul II as he drove through a crowd in St Peter's Square. Among the explanations the gunman gave prosecutors at his 1985 trial was that his attempt was apparently connected to the third secret of Fatima. This claim surprised everyone at the trial. It has since been revealed that the KGB may have been involved.
The Pope made several trips to Fatima and first met Sister Lucia during a trip in 1991. Before the third secret was revealed on May 13, 2000, speculations continued as to what it could be. It was assumed by some to relate to World War III or some other catastrophe, even the end of the world. When the third message was published by the Vatican, it was possible to see the link with the 1981 attempted assassination of the Pope. The Vatican hoped that publication would reduce the alarmist fears about what the secret could contain. On the same day as Sister Lucia's message was revealed, the Pope beatified two of the Fatima shepherds--a step towards their becoming saints. It was the first time that children have been beatified. Before this, the Church believed that children were not spiritually mature enough to work miracles or to have been martyred for their faith (the standards required for sainthood). In all likelihood, before his death, the Pope set in motion the process towards Sister Lucia's beatification as well.
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