.- Yesterday, a message from the Holy Father was read at the funeral of Sister Lucia, the last survivor of the three children who witnessed apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Pope John Paul IIâs message was sent to Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, Portugal, which he read at Sister Luciaâs funeral. She died in Coimbra on Sunday at the age of 97.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, Italy, presided at the funeral Mass as the Pope's special envoy.
The Pope wrote in his message that, "For Lucia, the visit by the Virgin to her and to her cousins Francesco and Jacinta, at Fatima in 1917, was the beginning of a special mission to which she remained faithful to the end of her days.â
Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great faithfulness to the Lord, and of joyous obedience to His divine will."
The Holy Father emotionally recalled his various meetings with the Sister Lucia and "the ties of spiritual friendship which strengthened over time. I felt myself supported by the daily gift of her prayers, especially during difficult moments of trial and suffering. May the Lord give her ample reward for the great and hidden service she offered the Church.
"I like to thinkâ, he said, âthat Sister Lucia, in her transit from earth to heaven, was welcomed by the One whom she saw at Fatima so many years ago. May the Most Holy Virgin now accompany the soul of this devoted daughter to the beatific encounter with the divine Bridegroom."
The Vatican reported that on the eve of her death, the Holy Father had sent a fax to Sister Lucia in which he expressed his closeness and gave assurances of his prayers that she might "experience this moment of pain, suffering and sacrifice with the Paschal spirit" of death and resurrection.
John Paul II met Sister Lucia, a Carmelite nun, on three occasions, all on May 13 in the years 1982, 1991 and 2000.
Their first encounter took place exactly a year after the attempt on the Pope's life in St Peter's Square in which he almost died. On that occasion, the Pope went to Fatima to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for saving him, and ordered that, as a sign of gratitude, the bullet found in his jeep after the assassination attempt be set in the crown of the image of the Virgin of Fatima.
The 1991 meeting took place on the tenth anniversary of the assassination attempt, and the last occasion on which the Pope and Sister Lucia met personally was on May 13, 2000.
It was on this last visit that the Holy Father beatified her cousins, the shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta, and Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano read a message concerning the much speculated third secret of Fatima.