Cardinal Martins, who himself is Portuguese, said he had "many interactions" with Sr. Lucia, particularly during his tenure at the Congregation for Saints. He headed the dicastery from 1998-2008, during which he brought forward some 1,320 blesseds, though many were part of large groups done together.
Having lived in Rome for at least three decades, serving in various capacities, the cardinal said he, like the rest of the city, typically takes his vacation in mid-August.
It was during one of these vacations that he accepted an invitation to go to Coimbra and celebrate Mass for the Carmelite sisters on the Aug. 15 Feast of the Assumption. After Mass, the cardinal sat with the community and talked with them for a while, even answering some questions.
"We spoke about everything, they asked whatever questions they wanted, without limits, and I responded," he said, noting Sr. Lucia was also present, and he was also able to speak with her for the first time.
Lucia "was a very humble person, simple, very intelligent, and very confident," he said, explaining during another visit, he was again sitting with the community after celebrating Mass for them.
He recalled that there was an empty seat by him, so he motioned for Lucia to come sit next to him.
Martins recalled that once she sat down, she leaned over and told him, "Eminence, you've made me your secretary, eh?" After a laugh, the cardinal jested, saying in return, "Sister Lucia, please, don't say this, I am not worthy of having you as a secretary!"
Martins said Lucia was always full of little quips, and at one point jokingly threatened to stop sending rosaries to the Pope if he didn't allow the beatification of her cousins – Francisco and Jacinta Marto – to take place in Fatima, rather than in Rome.
At the time, as a rule of thumb both canonization and beatification Masses were held Rome. However, it was Cardinal Martins who later changed this, requesting that beatifications take place in the local diocese instead. His request was approved by Benedict XVI, and the change was made in September 2005.
The cause of Francisco and Jacinta was officially opened in 1946, and although the change hadn't officially been made yet, they were beatified by St. John Paul II May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition, during his third visit to the Fatima shrine.
(Story continues below)
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But a year before the beatification, while plans were still in the works, Lucia had jokingly told Martins to relay to the Pope "if the beatification is not done in Fatima, but in Rome, I, Lucia, won't send him rosaries anymore."
The jest was in reference to the fact that in her final years Lucia made rosaries and sent large numbers of them to the Pope, who would distribute them to pilgrims and people he met.
"Clearly, I didn't say it," the cardinal said, recalling that on the day of the beatification, both he and Lucia had a brief conversation in the sacristy before the celebration began.
He told Lucia she could be now grateful to the Pope for having approved celebrating the beatification Mass in Fatima. However, Lucia again jested, saying "I'm not grateful to the Pope, absolutely no. I am grateful to God who inspired the Pope for the beatification."
"This is how it was. With Lucia, we were like siblings," the cardinal said, adding that Lucia's humor wasn't the only thing that stood out about her.
"She was also very intelligent," he said. People often perceived her as someone "in another world," who was perhaps a bit disconnected, but in reality, the opposite was true: "she was very concrete, and very intelligent."