Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis already is looking ahead to 2017 and particularly to marking important Marian feasts that year.
Portuguese Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima issued a statement April 25 saying that Pope Francis authorized him to share publicly the pope’s hope to go to Fatima in 2017 for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.
“Pope Francis confirmed to Bishop Antonio Marto that, ‘if God gives me life and health’ he wants to go to Cova da Iria to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions of Fatima,” said a statement posted on the website of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. Cova da Iria was the place near Fatima where three shepherd children reported seeing Mary between May 13 and Oct. 13, 1917.
The Fatima anniversary is not the only Marian anniversary Pope Francis has said he wants to celebrate in 2017. When he was in Brazil in 2013 for the celebration of World Youth Day, he spent a day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.
After Mass at the shrine, he took a copy of the statue of Mary outside with him to bless the thousands of people who could not be accommodated in the church.
He asked the crowd to pray for him, especially that he would be able to return to Aparecida in 2017 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the statue’s discovery.
The image of Our Lady of Aparecida is a dark wooden sculpture that was caught in the nets of three local fishermen in 1717. One of the men kept the statue in his home for 15 years; his neighbors, then people from farther away, came to consider it an object of devotion. A chapel was built to house the statue in 1734, and work on the first basilica began in 1834. In 1929, Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Aparecida the “queen and patron of Brazil.”