In the presence of hundreds of thousands of faithful at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, the former Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope’s special envoy to the event, presided at the Mass celebrating the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, which began on May 13, 1917.
In recalling the apparitions to Lucia dos Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Cardinal Sodano emphasized, “Fatima triumphed over the incredulity of the world, the opposition of the authorities and the reservations of the Church. The beloved Cardinal Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon, rightly states, ‘It was not the Church that imposed Fatima, but rather Fatima that imposed on the Church.”
During his homily Cardinal Sodano reminisced about the visits of Paul VI and John Paul II to the famous shrine. Paul VI’s visit took place some forty years ago, while John Paul II visited Fatima in 1982, 1991, and 2000, and he beatified Jacinta and Francisco, the two visionaries who died at a young age.
Cardinal Sodano emphasized the “profound devotion” of John Paul II to Our Lady of Fatima, noting that on May 13, 1982, the pontiff visited the shrine to express his gratitude for being saved from the attempt on his life. “Here, the ‘Totus Tuus’ Pope made a solemn act of surrender and consecration of all humanity to Mary,” he recalled.
The cardinal also noted that although Benedict XVI was in Brazil at the Shrine of Aparecida, “he is present here,” united to “our singing of the glories of Mary.”
Europe’s “surreptitious apostasy”
In commenting about the message of Mary in the apparitions, Cardinal Sodano prayed to the Mother of God, “to once again show her maternal solicitude for the men and women of our day, who are sometimes tempted to stray from God in order to prostrate themselves before the ‘golden calf’ of the banalities of the earth.”
“Mary knows that the eternal salvation of her children is at risk, and therefore, she respects the call of Jesus: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ The message of Jesus thus becomes the message of Mary. It is a strong and decisive example like that which only a mother knows how to give to her children in the important moments of their lives,” he added.
Later on Cardinal Soldano emphasized, “In our day it seems that many have strayed from the Father’s house. We unite together here in prayer to Mary, that she might enlighten their consciences and make the prodigal children return home to the Father’s house. We make particular mention of those who live in Europe and are tempted to abandon the faith that was their strength throughout the centuries.”
The countries of Europe, he went on, are experiencing “a surreptitious apostasy that cannot leave us indifferent.” “We entrust to the Immaculate Heart of Mary the destiny of mankind and of the peoples of our continent, and we commit ourselves to putting again at the heart of our society that leaven of the Gospel that fermented its history throughout the centuries,” the cardinal said in conclusion.