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Pope to canonize child visionaries in May

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Francisco and Jacinta Marto on path to become the youngest non-martyrs declared saints
By Elise Harris

VATICAN CITY (CNA)

Photo: Portuguese shepherd children Lucia dos Santos (centre) and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, are seen in this 1917 photo. (CNS)

Pope Francis will canonize visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto during his trip next month to Portugal for the centenary of the Fatima Marian apparitions.

The canonizations will make the children the youngest non-martyrs ever declared saints. They will be canonized during the Pope’s May 13 Mass in Fatima.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is the man who was largely responsible for advancing the visionaries’ cause, paving the way for them to become the first canonized children who were not martyred.

Previously, the Portuguese cardinal told CNA, children were not beatified, due to the belief “that children didn’t yet have the ability to practise Christian heroic virtue like adults.”

But that all changed when the cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto arrived on his desk.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, became the youngest non-martyr children to be beatified when on May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope John Paul II proclaimed them "Blessed," officially showing that young children can become saints.

The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to pray the Rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. The children did this and were known to pray often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their sacrifices and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

When Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu in October 1918, Mary appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested and received his first Communion. He died the following day, April 4, 1919.

Jacinta suffered a long illness and was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital, where she underwent an operation for an abscess in her chest. Her health did not improve and she died Feb. 20, 1920.

Francisco and Jacinta “practised Christian virtue in a heroic way,” said Cardinal Martins. One of the most obvious moments in which this virtue was apparent for him was when the three shepherd children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor on Aug. 13, 1917.

Cardinal Martins was also the one to bring Lucia’s cause to the Vatican following her death in 2005. The visionary had spent the remainder of her life after the apparitions as a Carmelite nun.

Although the diocesan phase of the cause has already been finished, Cardinal Martins – who knew the visionary personally – said Lucia’s process will take much longer than that of Francisco and Jacinta not only due to her long life, but also because of the vast number of letters and other material from her writings and correspondence that needs to be examined.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 09:48  

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