On Saturday morning, 13 May, over 600,000 faithful gathered in
the square and surrounding areas of the Basilica of Our Lady of the
Rosary in Fatima, Portugal, for the solemn Mass celebrated by Pope
John Paul II for the beatification of the Servants of God Francisco
and Jacinto Marto, two shepherd children who witnessed extraordinary
appearances of the Blessed Mother in 1917.
Concelebrating with the Holy Father were the Cardinals and
Bishops of the papal entourage, all the Bishops of Portugal and
other Cardinals and Bishops from various parts of the world. Also
pre-sent for the liturgy was Sr Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart
(in the world Lucia de Jesus), the third child to see and speak with
After the introductory rites of the liturgy, Bishop Serafim de
Sousa Ferreira e Silva of Leiria-Fatima petitioned the Holy Father
to enrol Francisco and Jacinta Marto among the blessed After the
Pope proclaimed them blessed, he announced that their least day
would be 20 February. The readings of the liturgy were specially
chosen to reflect the lives of the seers and the message of Fatima:
Rv 11:19a, 12:1, 3-6a, 17; Col 1:24-28; and Mt 11:25. The Creed was
sung in Latin and the prayers of the faithful were offered in
various languages. The Pope gave Holy Communion to Sr Lucia, 12
children and other members of the faithful.
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily, which he
preached in Portuguese.
1. "Father, ... to you I offer praise; for what you have
hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest
children" (Mt 11:25).
With these words, dear brothers and sisters, Jesus praises the
heavenly Father for his designs; he knows that no one can come to him
unless he is drawn by the Father (cf. Jn 6:44); therefore he praises
him for his plan and embraces it as a son: "Yes, Father, for such
was your gracious will" (Mt 11:26). You were pleased to reveal
the kingdom to the merest children.
According to the divine plan, "a woman clothed with the
sun" (Rv 12: 1) came down from heaven to this earth to visit the
privileged children of the Father. She speaks to them with a mother's
voice and heart: she asks them to offer themselves as victims of
reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. And
behold, they see a light shining from her maternal hands which
penetrates them inwardly, so that they feel immersed in God just—as
they explain—a person sees
himself in a mirror.
Later Francisco, one of the three privileged children, exclaimed:
"We were burning in that light which is God and we were not
consumed. What is God, like? It is impossible to say. In fact we will
never be able to tell people". God: a fight that burns without
consuming. Moses had the same experience when he saw God in the
burning bush; he heard God say that he was concerned about the slavery
of his people and had decided to deliver them through him: "I
will be with you" (cf. Ex 3:2-12). Those who welcome this
presence become the dwelling-place and, consequently, a "burning
bush" of the Most High.
Francisco bore his sufferings without complaining
2. What most impressed and entirely absorbed Bl. Francisco
was God in that immense fight which penetrated the inmost depths of
the three children. But God told only Francisco "how sad" he
was, as he said. One night his father heard him sobbing and asked him
why he was crying; his son answered: "I was thinking of Jesus who
is so sad because of the sins that are committed against him". He
was motivated by one desire—so
expressive of how children think—"to
console Jesus and make him happy".
A transformation takes place in his life, one we could call
radical: a transformation certainly uncommon for children of his age.
He devotes himself to an intense spiritual fife, expressed in
assiduous and fervent prayer, and attains a true form of mystical
union with the Lord. This spurs him to a progressive purification of
the spirit through the renunciation of his own pleasures and even of
innocent childhood games.
Francisco bore without complaining the great sufferings caused by
the illness from which he died. It all seemed to him so little to
console Jesus: he died with a smile on his lips. little Francisco had
a great desire to atone for the offences Of sinners by striving to be
good and by offering his sacrifices and prayers. The life of Jacinta,
his younger sister by almost two years, was motivated by these same
3. "Another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red
dragon" (Rv 12:3).
These words from the first reading of the Mass make us think of the
great struggle between good and evil, showing how, when man puts God
aside, be cannot achieve happiness, but ends up destroying himself.
How many victims there have been throughout the last century of the
second millennium! We remember the horrors of the First and Second
World Wars and the other wars in so many parts of the world, the
concentration and extermination camps, the gulags, ethnic cleansings
and persecutions, terrorism, kidnappings, drugs, the attacks on unborn
life and the family.
The message of Fatima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to
have nothing to do with the "dragon" whose "tail swept
down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth"
(Rv 12:4). Man's final goal is heaven, his true home, where the
heavenly Father awaits everyone with his merciful love.
God does not want anyone to be lost; that is why 2,000 years ago he
sent his Son to earth, "to seek and to save the lost" (Lk
19:10). And he saved us by his death on the cross. Let no one empty
that Cross of its power! Jesus died and rose from the dead to be
"the first-born among many brethren" (Rom 8:29).
In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came here to Fatima to
ask men and women "to stop offending God, Our Lord, who is
already very offended". It is a mother's sorrow that compels her
to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake. For this reason she
asks the little shepherds: "Pray, pray much and make sacrifices
for sinners; many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray
and make sacrifices for them".
Jacinta endured everything for the conversion of sinners
4. Little Jacinta felt and personally experienced Our Lady's
anguish, offering herself heroically as a victim for sinners. One day,
when she and Francisco had already contracted the illness that forced
them to bed, the Virgin Mary came to visit them at home, as the little
one recounts: "Our Lady came to see us and said that soon she
would come and take Francisco to heaven. And she asked me if I still
wanted to convert more sinners. I told her yes". And when the
time came for Francisco to leave, the little girl tells him:
"Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that
I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of
sinners". Jacinta had been so deeply moved by the vision of hell
during the apparition of 13 July that no mortification or penance
seemed too great to save sinners.
She could well exclaim with St Paul: "I rejoice in my
sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking
in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the
Church" (Col 1:24). Last Sunday at the Colosseum in Rome, we
commemorated the many witnesses to the faith in the 20th century,
recalling the tribulations they suffered through the significant
testimonies they left us. An innumerable cloud of courageous witnesses
to the faith have left us a precious heritage which must live on in
the third millennium. Here in Fatima, where these times of tribulation
were foretold and Our Lady asked for prayer and penance to shorten
them, I would like today to thank heaven for the powerful, witness
shown in all those lives. And once again I would like to celebrate the
Lord's goodness to me when I was saved from death after being gravely
wounded on 13 May 1981. I also express my gratitude to Bl. Jacinta for
the sacrifices and prayers offered for the Holy Father, whom she saw
5. "Father, to you I offer praise, for you have revealed these
things to the merest children". Today Jesus' praise takes the
solemn form of the beatification of the little shepherds, Francisco
and Jacinta. With this rite the Church wishes to put on the
candelabrum these two candles which God fit to illumine humanity in
its dark and anxious hours. May they shine on the path of this immense
multitude of pilgrims and of all who have accompanied us by radio and
television. May Francisco and Jacinta be a friendly light that
illumines all Portugal and, in special way, this Diocese of
I thank Bishop Serafim, of this illustrious particular Church, for
his words of welcome, and with great joy I greet the entire Portuguese
Episcopate and their Dioceses, which I deeply love and which I urge to
imitate their saints. A fraternal greeting goes to the Cardinals and
Bishops present, with a special word for the Pastors from the
community of Portuguese-speaking countries: may the Virgin Mary obtain
reconciliation for the Angolan people; may she bring comfort to the
flood victims of Mozambique; may she watch over the steps of Timor
Lorosae, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe; may she
preserve her Brazilian sons and daughters in the unity of faith.
I extend a respectful greeting to the President of the Republic and
to the authorities who have wished to take part in this celebration. I
take this occasion to express, through them, my gratitude to everyone
who helped make my pilgrimage possible. A cordial embrace and a
particular blessing to the parish and city of Fatima, which today
rejoices in her children who are raised to the honours of the altar.
We make spiritual progress when we rely on Mary
6. My last words are for the children: dear boys and girls, I see
so many of you dressed like Francisco and Jacinta. You look very nice!
But in a little while or tomorrow you will take these clothes off and
... the little shepherds will disappear. They should not disappear,
should they?! Our Lady needs you all to console Jesus, who is sad
because of the bad things done to him; he needs your prayers and your
sacrifices for sinners.
Ask your parents and teachers to enrol you in the
"school" of Our Lady, so that she can teach you to be like
the little shepherds, who tried to do whatever she asked them. I tell
you that "one makes more progress in a short time of submission
and dependence on Mary than during entire years of personal
initiatives, relying on oneself alone" (St Louis de Montfort, The
True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, n. 155). This was how
the little shepherds became saints so quickly. A woman who gave
hospitality to Jacinta. in Lisbon, on hearing the very beautiful and
wise advice that the little girl gave, asked who taught it to her.
"It was Our Lady", she replied. Devoting themselves with
total generosity to the direction of such a good Teacher, Jacinta and
Francisco soon reached the heights of perfection.
7. "Father, to you I offer praise, for what you have hidden
from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest
Father, to you I offer praise for all your children, from the
Virgin Mary, your humble Servant, to the little shepherds, Francisco
May the message of their lives live on for ever to light humanity's