Today marks the 103rd year when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children—Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco—in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Catholics all around the world have been celebrating this event publicly until today.
This year, however, church authorities encourage the faithful to venerate Our Lady of Fatima virtually. It comes as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic still prohibits mass gatherings in most places all over the world.
Thousands go to the Shrine of Our Lady in Cova da Iria in Fatima, from May through October, annually. But this year, 350 groups cancelled their pilgrimages, says the Vatican News.
According to church authorities in Fatima, the expected mass gathering of pilgrims will go against the efforts of health authorities to slow the spread of the virus.
However, one can still venerate Our Lady using TV, radio, and the internet. Cardinal António Marto, Bishop of Leiria-Fatima and Vice President of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference (Cep) said that celebrations for this year will be transmitted by broadcast and digital media.
“[A]s much as our hearts would like to be in Fatima celebrating together in the same place, as has been the case since 1917, prudence counsels us not to do so this time,” he said, adding that Catholics can look forward to an end to the pandemic and an opportunity to gather together joyfully in the future.
You can follow the Fatima celebrations on the shrine’s website, which allows interior pilgrimages. The faithful are also encouraged to light a candle by their windows.
Lessons of Fatima
In 1917, three shepherd children from Fatima, Portugal reported that they saw a brilliant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. The “lady” asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and an end to the war. She also asked them to come back on the 13th of every month. The apparitions lasted until October.
Through the children, the Virgin Mary urges prayer for sinners, recitation of the Rosary, and works of penance. On October 13 she said: “I have come to exhort the faithful to change their lives, to avoid grieving Our Lord by sin; to pray the Rosary. I desire in this place a chapel in my honor. If people mend their ways, the war will soon be over.”