.- "It is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the 'bullet' of our anxieties and sufferings," said the Holy Father in Fatima on Wednesday evening. In prayer before Mary in the Chapel of Apparitions at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, the Pope entrusted all people to Our Lady and gave thanks for all prayers for him.
Having bid farewell to those at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lisbon on Wednesday afternoon, Pope Benedict boarded a helicopter for Fatima, almost 90 miles to the north. He was welcomed on arrival by Bishop of Leiria-Fatima Antonio Augusto dos Santos Marto, the city's mayor and other government authorities.
From the landing pad he traveled by motorcade to the Chapel of Apparitions at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, where he was met by Fr. Virgílio do Nascimento Antunes, rector of the shrine. After praying before the image of Our Lady privately, the Holy Father prayed aloud, accompanied at intervals by cantors and the assembly.
He addressed Our Lady directly, saying that he came before her "as a son visiting his Mother" and "in company with a multitude of brothers and sisters."
As the Successor of Peter and representative of the Church, he presented to her Immaculate Heart "the joys and hopes as well as the problems and sufferings of each one of these sons and daughters of yours."
Recalling her relationship and "maternal benevolence" for all people, he entrusted and consecrated all to "Mary Most Holy, Mother of God and our Mother."
Pope Benedict XVI then remembered how when John Paul II visited the shrine he offered Mary one of the bullets that struck him in the 1981 assassination attempt.
Venerable John Paul II was hit by four bullets fired at him by Mehmet Ali Agca of Turkey on May 13, 1981 in St. Peter's Square. Agca, who was later forgiven in jail by the Pontiff, reportedly requested permission from the Portuguese government to be in Fatima for Pope Benedict XVI's celebrations this week. The request was evidently not granted.
Recalling that the bullet brought by John Paul II was placed in Our Lady's crown, Benedict XVI said, "it is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the 'bullet' of our anxieties and sufferings."
He went on to thank her for the Marian-inspired sentiments that led the shepherd-children to pray for the Pope. In addition, he expressed his gratitude to all who remember the Pope and his intentions in their prayers, asking "that the Pope may be strong in faith, bold in hope and zealous in love."
Pope Benedict concluded his prayer in the Chapel of Apparitions by presenting Mary with a golden rose, "as a homage of gratitude from the Pope for the marvels that the Almighty has worked through you in the hearts of so many who come as pilgrims to this your maternal home."
He closed by saying that he was sure that Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, the shepherd-children of Fatima, joined them in "this hour of prayer and jubilation."