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Site of 1917 Marian apparitions continues to draw pilgrims

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY — While conversion and prayer are at the heart of Mary’s messages at Fatima, Portugal, the miracles and unexplained phenomena that accompanied the events 100 years ago continue to intrigue believers and nonbelievers alike.

The apparitions of Mary at Fatima in 1917 were not the first supernatural events reported there. Read more »

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Pope recognizes miracle attributed to Fatima visionaries

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved the recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the shepherd children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, thus paving the way for their canonization.

Pope Francis signed the decree for the causes of Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto during a meeting March 23 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the Vatican said.  

Pilgrims walk on their knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

Pilgrims walk on their knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

The recognition of the miracle makes it likely that the canonization ceremony for the two children will be scheduled soon. The cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation must vote to recommend their canonization and then the pope would convene the cardinals resident in Rome for a consistory to approve the sainthood.

Many people are hoping Pope Francis will preside over the canonization ceremony during his visit to Fatima May 12-13.

The pilgrimage will mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

A year after the apparitions, both of the Marto children became ill during an influenza epidemic that plagued Europe. Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.

Francisco and Jacinta’s cause for canonization was stalled for decades due to a debate on whether non-martyred children have the capacity to understand heroic virtues at a young age. However, in 1979, St. John Paul II allowed their cause to proceed; he declared them venerable in 1989 and beatified them in 2000.

Their cousin Lucia entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and, later, obtained permission to enter the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.

Following her death, Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period before her sainthood cause could open. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13, 2017, and forwarded the information to the Vatican.

Also March 23, Pope Francis signed other decrees recognizing miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues in six other causes, the Vatican said.

The pope also approved the bishops’ and cardinals’ vote to canonize two Brazilian priests — Blessed Andre de Soveral and Blessed Ambrosio Francisco Ferro — as well as Mateus Moreira and 27 laypeople, who were killed in 1645 as violence broke out between Portuguese Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in Brazil.

Pope Francis also approved the vote to canonize three young Mexican martyrs, known as the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, who were among the first native converts in Mexico. Known only by their first names —Cristobal, Antonio and Juan — they were killed in 1529 for rejecting idolatry and polygamy in the name of their faith.

In addition, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Franciscan Claretian Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, who died in 1995 after being stabbed 54 times, apparently because of her work helping poor women in India organize themselves. With the signing of the decree, a date can be set for her beatification.

 

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Sainthood cause of Fatima visionary now awaits miracles

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Diocese of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.

Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, is pictured in a 2000 photo. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra, Portugal, formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97. (CNS photo/Paulo Carrico, EPA)

Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, is pictured in a 2000 photo. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra, Portugal, formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97. (CNS photo/Paulo Carrico, EPA)

Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra, Portugal, formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.

The ceremony included the sealing of 50 volumes, 15,000 pages, of evidence and witness testimonies detailing the life of Sister Lucia. The documents sealed at the ceremony were to be shipped to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes at the Vatican.

After a thorough review of the materials and a judgment that Sister Lucia heroically lived the Christian virtues, her cause still would require the recognition of two miracles, one for beatification and another for canonization, attributed to her intercession.

The Marian apparitions at Fatima began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary.

The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

Father Romano Gambalunga, postulator of the visionary’s cause, said that while “Lucia is already a saint in the eyes” of many people, “the prudent path of the church is that she is proposed to all, not just those who believe.”

“Lucia became holy over the years, not because of the apparitions,” Father Gambalunga told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops’ conference. Without providing details, he said she had a “spiritual experience” in the convent.

While many hope her heroic virtues will be recognized by the church soon, it is important “not to do things in a hurry,” he said Feb. 13.

The evidence and testimonies gathered for Sister Lucia’s cause, he said, provide “a great occasion for spiritual and theological deepening,” and the material will help “illuminate the history of the church over the last 100 years.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima May 12-13 and many people hope he will use the occasion to canonize Sister Lucia’s cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, who were beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima told Radio Renascenca, the Portuguese bishops’ radio station, that while nothing is certain, he is “deeply hopeful” the canonization will take place this year, the centenary of the apparitions.

“We are waiting and continue to pray to the Lord. But I hope that, during the centenary, we will have the grace and joy to participate in the canonization,” he said.

Bishop Marto also admitted that “he is a convert,” who, as a priest, was initially skeptical of the Marian apparitions in Fatima.

“I was a skeptic. I didn’t care; I did not take an interest nor did I take a position. I understood it as something for children,” Bishop Marto said.

The skepticism changed into belief after attending a conference on the apparitions and reading Sister Lucia’s memoirs, he told the radio station. “I was deeply impressed, both by the authenticity of the testimony she gave and by the seriousness of the problems she dealt with. I read her memoirs three times to find the historical and ecclesial context” of the apparitions.

 

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Two parish priests kidnapped, murdered in Poza Rica, Mexico

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Two priests were kidnapped and killed in the Mexican state of Veracruz, raising the death toll of clergy murdered in Mexico to 14 in less than four years.

Veracruz state attorney general Luis Angel Bravo Contreras told reporters Sept. 20 that the “victims and the victimizers knew each other” and added that the attack was “not a kidnapping.”

The bodies of Fathers Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz are seen along a roadside Sept. 19 in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The priests were found murdered that day, just hours after they were kidnapped from the low-income neighborhood where they served. (CNS /EPA)

The bodies of Fathers Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz are seen along a roadside Sept. 19 in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The priests were found murdered that day, just hours after they were kidnapped from the low-income neighborhood where they served. (CNS /EPA)

“They were together, having a few drinks, the gathering broke down due to alcohol and turned violent,” he said.

Catholic officials in Veracruz rejected the explanation, calling it “an easy out” and saying it ignored the reality of a state notorious for crime and corruption.

“We are hoping for more professional and careful inquiry, because this declaration the prosecutor is giving generates more doubts than responses to the issue of the murder of these two priests,” said Father Jose Manuel Suazo Reyes, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Xalapa. “It surprises us how quickly they’ve concluded an investigation that requires more time and care.”

Father Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Father Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz were dragged at gunpoint out of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Poza Rica, a Gulf Coast oil city consumed by crime in recent years, the Diocese of Papantla confirmed in a statement.

Media reported the men were found Sept. 19, one day after their abduction, along the side of a highway with their hands and feet bound. They were beaten and had gunshot wounds, according to media reports.

A driver employed by the parish also was abducted, Mexican media reported, but was found unharmed.

State officials said Sept. 20 that five men participated in the abductions and one of the suspect’s identities was known. Robbery of a church building fund was cited as a motive, Veracruz media outlet Plumas Libres reported.

“In these moments of pain, impotence and tragedy provoked by violence, we raise our prayers to the heavens for the eternal rest of our brothers and implore to the Lord the conversion of the aggressors. Of the authorities, we await the clarification of the acts and the application of those responsible,” the Mexican bishops’ conference said in a statement.

Violence has struck Veracruz clergy previously. In 2013, two priests in the Diocese of Tuxpan were murdered in their parish.

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In family relations, good manners are no joke, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The closer two people are to each other, the more care is required in respecting the other’s freedom and feelings, Pope Francis said.

Even Jesus knocks at the door of a person’s heart awaiting permission to enter, he said May 13 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis gestures toward the crowd as he  points out a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 13. The pope prayed in front of the statue, present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  The statue is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures toward the crowd as he points out a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 13. The pope prayed in front of the statue, present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The statue is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Intimacy does not authorize you to take everything for granted,” he said, starting a series of audience talks he said would look at the real life of families today.

The audience was held on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The pope began the gathering by praying silently before a statue of Mary and, after a Portuguese aide summarized his talk, the pope asked him to lead the Hail Mary in Portuguese. The aide complied, his voice breaking with emotion at the surprise request.

Pope Francis’ main talk focused on the three phrases he often recommends families use frequently: May I? Thank you. Forgive me.

The words are simple, he said, and hearing the pope advise their frequent use could make someone smile at first. “But when we forget them, it’s no laughing matter, right?”

The three phrases, he said, “open the path to living well in a family, living in peace.” Without them, he said, the family’s foundation develops “cracks that can even make it collapse.”

“Sometimes it seems that we are becoming a civilization of bad manners and dirty words as if they were a sign of emancipation. We hear them so often, even publicly,” he said. “Kindness and an ability to say thank you are almost seen as a sign of weakness.”

Families must work hard to counter that tendency, he said.

“We must be uncompromising in educating people in gratitude and thanksgiving,” the pope said. “If family life ignores this, our social life will lose as well.”

In addition, he said, “for believers, gratitude is at the very heart of faith. A Christian who does not know how to give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language.”

“Listen up, eh,” he told the estimated 25,000 people in the square, and repeated the sentence.

Pope Francis said a “very wise” woman once told him, ‘gratitude is a plant that grows only in the soil of noble souls.’ The nobility of soul, the grace of God, pushes one to give thanks. Gratitude is the flower of a noble soul.”

Asking permission, even to do something that one thinks one has a right to do as a husband, wife, parent, son or daughter is a sign of respect, the pope said, and one that builds trust.

“The more intimate and profound love is,” he said, “the more it requires respect for the other’s freedom and an ability to wait for the other to open the door of his or her heart.”

The most difficult and most important phrase of all, he said, is “forgive me.”

“It’s not for nothing that in the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father, which summarizes all the things essential for our life, we find this expression: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,’” the pope said.

With God and with loved ones, “recognizing one has failed and wanting to restore what was lacking — respect, sincerity, love — makes one worthy of forgiveness,” he said. “That’s how you stop the infection.”

“So many wounds in the family, so many breakups begin with the loss of these precious words: ‘Forgive me,’” he said.

As he has done on many occasions, the pope said that while fights are never a good thing, they are normal, and even if “plates fly” in the heat of the moment, a sincere apology and request for forgiveness, sometimes even just a caress, can restore the peace.

 

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Texas nurse who recovered from Ebola had prayers of her parish

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BETHESDA, Md. — Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who was the first person known to have contracted the Ebola virus in the United States, thanked God, her family and her medical team for her recovery Oct. 24.

Pham held a news conference in Bethesda after she was declared virus-free and released from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Texas nurse Nina Pham  contracted Ebola while treating a man who later died of disease and was admitted late Oct. 16 to a clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She visited the White House after she was discharged from NIH.  CNS/Reuters

Texas nurse Nina Pham contracted Ebola while treating a man who later died of disease and was admitted late Oct. 16 to a clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She visited the White House after she was discharged from NIH.
CNS/Reuters

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today. I would first and foremost like to thank God, my family and friends,” she said. “Throughout this ordeal I have put my trust in God and my medical team.

“I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate,” added Pham, 26, who grew up in Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Fort Worth, Texas, and where she and her family have been longtime members.

She was “thankful for everyone involved in my care,” she said, “from the moment I became ill and was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Health Dallas up to today,” when she was being discharged from NIH.

After she was released from the hospital, she paid a visit to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.

Pham was involved in the care of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan prior to his death Oct. 8. Duncan contracted Ebola in his home country of Liberia and had traveled to the Dallas hospital where he was being treated.

The Centers for Disease Control initially said Pham’s contact of the virus was likely a protocol breach, but the nurse is said to have worn the required protective gear and is believed to have followed the hospital’s procedures.

She was kept in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian. Pham received a blood transfusion Oct. 12 from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who had been working with Ebola patients in Liberia when he contracted the virus in the summer. He recovered in an Atlanta hospital.

On Oct. 16, she was transported to NIH.

Pham is a 2006 graduate of Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth. When the school community found out she contracted Ebola, it organized a rosary service at the school’s chapel.

The pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, Father Jim Khoi, also asked for prayers for her. “She knows that everybody knew to pray for her, especially in this difficult time,” he told The Dallas Morning News daily paper shortly after Pham was found to have the virus.

“Her mom is very calm and trusts everything to God’s hands,” he noted.

Pham’s apartment was thoroughly cleaned after tests confirmed she contracted the disease. Her dog, Bentley, was put into isolation to be cared for and tested for Ebola. The dog has since been found to be virus-free. Pham said she looked forward to returning to Texas and being reunited with her family and her dog.

A second nurse who contracted Ebola, Amber Vinson, also has been declared virus-free, but news reports said she would remain in treatment in Atlanta until further notice. On Oct. 23, a U.S. doctor who just returned from treating Ebola patients was found to have Ebola and he is now in isolation at a New York City hospital.

In Arizona, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers announced Oct. 24 the community would offer a novena of intercession for protection from Ebola in conjunction with St. Theresa Catholic Church in Phoenix.

The novena was to begin Oct. 28 and continue for nine consecutive Tuesdays. Each evening service, lasting 30 to 40 minutes, was to have “a different theme of deliverance,” a news release said.

It said the novena is built on a prayer service featuring the solemn chanting of the “Haec Est Praeclarum Vas,” which was sung by the Crosiers in the Middle Ages to ward off the threat of the bubonic plague. That chant continued daily for centuries thereafter in Crosier communities.

“Given the widespread concern and fear of this deadly virus, we invite people to come together and pray for protection. We are drawing on an age-old Crosier tradition of reflection and intercession to Our Lady of Protection,” said Father Robert Rossi, a member of the Crosier Community of Phoenix and chair of the community’s Apostolic Presence Commission.

“The Crosier mission is to accompany people in their suffering, to stand with them and assure them that God has not abandoned them but is bringing about new life in some mysterious way,” he said. “We touch suffering with hope.”

Father Chuck Kieffer, pastor of St. Theresa, added: “While this type of prayer service is rooted in our ancient traditions, it is very relevant to what’s happening today.”

 

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Obituary: Sister Anne Gallagher, OSF, former nurse in diocese

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ASTON, Pa.Sister Anne Gallagher, who ministered in the Diocese of Wilmington for 13 years, died Jan. 12 in Assisi House. She was 74 and had been a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia for 49 years.

A native of Washington, N.J., Sister Anne worked at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington from 1974-81. She returned to the diocese as the school nurse at Holy Spirit School in New Castle from 2000-05 and then spent a year as a nurse and administrative assistant at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, also in New Castle. Read more »

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