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Nearly 100 years ago, from May to October 1917, Our Lady appeared to three young shepherd children, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia dos Santos, at Fatima in Portugal.

This year, the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF) in England and Wales will be promoting the centenary of the Fatima apparitions through a programme of visitations to cathedrals by the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima and relics of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco.

This will start with a visitation of the statue and relics to Westminster Cathedral on Saturday February 18, where Cardinal Vincent Nichols will crown the statue.

It will continue until October with visits to 18 cathedrals, including St Mary’s Cathedral in Middlesbrough from September 9 to 15.

The apostolate’s work involves promoting the message that Our Lady gave at Fatima. She spoke of the necessity of personal conversion, penance and prayer, and particularly the importance of praying the Rosary for peace.

She also asked for the Five First Saturdays devotion of reparation and the consecration of Russia and promised that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph and a period of peace would be given to the world. The international World Apostolate of Fatima was officially approved by the Church as a Public Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right in October 2010.

The Fatima message is more relevant than ever today, especially for the family. Pope St John Paul II said the Church accepted the message of Fatima because it repeats Our Lord’s call: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15); and after the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta in May 2000, he said it is, “a message of conversion and hope which is the true Gospel of Christ”.

In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI expressed the hope that “the message of Fatima will be increasingly accepted, understood and lived in every community,” Pope Francis has also been very supportive of Fatima and is due to visit the Shrine in May.

A special centenary crown is being made in Portugal for the statue. It will accompany the statue as it journeys around England and Wales and be used to crown it during the visitations.

Pope Francis has granted a special Fatima Centenary Plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, until November 26, for those who go on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Fatima, or visit an image of Our Lady of Fatima which is being publicly venerated on the 13th of each month from May to October 2017. Those who cannot travel can fulfil the conditions in front of a small image of Our Lady of Fatima.

The Pope’s initiative prompts the question: Do I know what Our Lady asked of me at Fatima and am I complying with her requests? The new CTS booklet, Message and Prayers of Fatima and also Sr Lucia’s Memoirs – Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, volume 1 – which they also stock, will help us to respond to these questions. (http://www.ctsbooks.org/)

The centenary year is important since it offers the Church a chance to look again at the message of Fatima – which is really a compendium of the Gospel for our times – and realise that the Fatima message and the Rosary are powerful weapons against modern secularism. The most important thing is not to let the centenary go by without doing something to deepen one’s knowledge of Fatima.

More information about the World Apostolate of Fatima and the Message of Fatima can be found on the website of the WAF International Secretariat, at www.worldfatima.com

You can see more details about the WAF England and Wales at www.worldfatima-englandwales.org.uk

Donal Foley, secretary, WAF, England and Wales

Pic: Fatima

Caption: Crowds in Fatima for the visit of Pope Benedict in 2010. Photo courtesy of M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk