The Big Question: Why is there a shrine at Fatima, and what is its significance for Catholics?continue reading at The Independent (UK)...
By Paul Vallely
Published: 24 May 2007
Why are we asking this question now?
The shrine at Fatima is regarded as the holiest site in Portugal, and it was there yesterday that the parents of Madeleine McCann made a pilgrimage to pray for a miracle in the search for the missing four-year-old. Indeed it is one of the most celebrated sites in Roman Catholicism.
So how did the shrine come to exist?
It is one of a handful of places where Catholic tradition has it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, has staged supernatural apparitions in modern times.
In 1917 three shepherd children reported visions of the Virgin Mary in fields outside the city of Fatima, north of Lisbon. They claimed that the visions continued from May to October, always on the 13th day of the month. The children said that the apparition gave them messages suggesting that the First World War, which was then raging, would end if Catholics devoutly said the prayer known as the Rosary.
Fatima is now one of the world's major centres of pilgrimage. Ten days ago some 300,000 pilgrims flocked there to mark the 90th anniversary of the date of the vision. The place is so iconic to the Portuguese that their national identity is said to be defined as: "Fado, Fatima and Football".
Did anyone else see the vision?