Chaplain: Fatima Shrine prepares for nearly 1 million visitors

Father Francisco Pereira, chaplain at the Shrine in Fatima, spoke with Barb Ernster about preparations for the Fatima centennial and the message in the third millennium.

How are you preparing for the 100th anniversary celebrations at the Shrine?

We started preparations in 2010, creating a pastoral project for the seven years until 2017, celebrating in each year the apparitions of the Angel and each of the apparitions of Our Lady.

May 13 is the most important event because we celebrate the first apparition of Our Lady to the three little shepherds: Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Having Pope Francis preside at this international pilgrimage is a great joy for us.

We began our pastoral year in the first Sunday of Advent and created a Jubilee Itinerary at the shrine for the pilgrims, starting at the arch marking the entrance of the shrine, with passages by the Little Chapel, the tombs of the seers and the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration. We have also the Jubilee Prayer of Consecration at the end of every Mass.

We prepared a monthly conference from December to April and a series of music concerts. Another important event is the International Congress, “Thinking Fatima — Interdisciplinary Readings,” ( in June.

We developed a lecture about the message of Fatima for groups of pilgrims and have an exhibition about the apparition on October 13th, the Miracle of the Sun, and the development of the shrine.

The most important thing is the care in the daily celebration of the sacraments, the Mass and reconciliation, providing for each pilgrim a true experience of Christian spirituality, growth in the devotion to our Blessed Mother and the possibility of finding Jesus, praying the Rosary or participating in every liturgical celebration, and being able to change his or her life following the example of the little shepherds.

How many pilgrims do you anticipate on May 13?

This year we have more pilgrims than previous years, even in winter time. And we have more pilgrim groups signed up to participate in the celebrations, and not only on May 13, but also on the other days. And we have an increasing number of pilgrims from Asia, especially from South Korea, from North and South America and from Western European countries.

We, the Shrine of Fatima and the civil authorities, are preparing procedures for the presence in Fatima of 800,000 persons for the International Pilgrimage of May 12 and 13, knowing that the capacity of the Prayer Square is 300,000 and not everyone will be at the square but spread through the streets around the shrine. That is why we are planning to have big screens outside the square to enable all the people to participate in the liturgical celebrations.

Can you speak about Blessed Francisco and Jacinta and what it means that they will be declared Saints?

Being declared saints they can be present to the universal church, to all Catholics in the world as a great example of a holy life in the ordinary circumstances of human existence.

They are saints not exclusively because Our Blessed Mother appeared to them, but because, after the apparitions, they changed their lives, growing from a normal Christian life–going to Mass on Sundays, learning the doctrine, praying the Rosary with the family and when guarding the sheep. They let the grace of God change their desires, thoughts and actions.

They did everything in their reach to console Jesus and to convert sinners. They gave their lives as an offering to God in reparation for the sins of mankind, mending the relation between each person and God. Blessed Francisco Marto shows us how we can reach holiness mainly by praying the Rosary and adoring the Hidden Jesus in the tabernacle of the parish church to console Jesus, whom he saw so sad because of the sins of the people.

Blessed Jacinta Marto had great compassion for all the people and made all the possible sacrifices in order to convert sinners, making reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and also she had a special love for the Holy Father.

St. John Paul II in his homily on May 13, 2000, said that Blessed Francisco and Jacinta “are two candles which God lit to illumine humanity in its dark and anxious hours; may they shine on the path of humanity.”

What do you hope people will take away from this jubilee year?

The message of Fatima is for today. We still need to pray the Rosary every day to reach peace, not only in places suffering war like Syria or Ukraine, not only in the war on terrorism, but mainly to build true peace between us: in our families and in our communities, to reach true respect for each human life, because we are all sons and daughters of God and everyone matters.

We need to consecrate ourselves to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary because the conversion of the world starts with our own conversion, and our conversion is only possible when we open ourselves to the grace and mercy of God, having the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a refuge, where we can find Jesus and together we can walk the path to salvation, climbing the hills or mountains of our lives, with difficulties and obstacles, but never alone.

What spiritual advice would you offer to people who are maybe just hearing the story of Fatima for the first time, or who are learning more about it this year?

Do not be afraid. God is the light of the world and we are His candles to break the darkness and hopelessness that is flooding the world. Pray the Rosary every day and be compassionate toward your neighbors.

Anything you would like to add that you would like people to know about Fatima, not just this year, but beyond?

There are no more secrets about Fatima. Everything that was said by Our Lady in Fatima is public. There are good books about Fatima and bad ones also, but we must see everything with the true standard that is the Gospel and then the Magisterium of the Church. Read what the popes said about Fatima, starting with Pius XII until Pope Francis.

Take Mary as your mother and the little shepherds as an example of discipleship and you will build a true community, the kingdom of God, and find the way to heaven, being a saint, that is the vocation of each baptized.

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  1. On the brink of WWIII and still No consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary??? Pope Francis PLEASE do the consecration of Russia for world peace to Our Lady of Fatima as She requested 100 years ago.

    • Sister Lucia stated many times, the consecration of March 25, 1984 was accepted by Heaven. The Church has accepted her word as the one who spoke to Our Lady. No one can explain the events that happened soon after that lead to the downfall of the communist party in the Soviet Union and the return of religious freedom behind the Iron Curtain.

      Are you practicing the First Saturday Communions of Reparation, which was the second part of the request of Our Lady for the conversion of Russia? Our Lady said “war is a punishment for sin.” The whole world needs conversion by now; not just Russia. We are to be praying and offering sacrifices daily for the conversion of sinners. That is our part in the Fatima prophecies.

      Our organization accepts Lucia’s word, and stands by the Church. It has been done.

  2. It always bothered me when I saw so many more modern saints and these two who saw the face of the BVM had to wait 100 years to be canonized . Not many can claim to have seen The Virgin Mary. With such evidence as these three Childrem. I still have a problem with other siteings that seeming arranged.

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