With the anniversary of the world-famous Fátima apparitions still a year away, the mood is ‘hotting up’ with pilgrims in Ourém yesterday attesting to another “miracle of the sun” – the extraordinary phenomenon witnessed by hundreds in 1917 after three child shepherds began seeing the Virgin Mary in the hillsides around Cova de Iria.
Coincidentally, the children began having their visions in May of that year, but the “miracle of the sun” was to come months later in October. It was not registered by any observatory of the time, nor were there any photographs to justify reports by a multitude that could have been as many as 70,000.
Yesterday’s “new miracle” appears to share the same lack of any concrete evidence.
Pilgrims involved in a procession, taking the Image of Our Lady out of the local church into the sunshine, have told reporters about a bright light, “blinking and spinning at high speed” and “capable of blinding anyone that looked at it”.
“It was spectacular!” Seventy-three-year-old Alfredo Gonçalves explained. “I think it was a divine signal, a message for from Our Lady”.
“We looked at the sun and there was a red flash around it with a bit of yellow, and then blue. It made a reflection as if it was a lightbulb flashing”, said local resident Lucinda Miguel, 80. “Maybe it was a signal…”
Teresa Riso, also 80, was adamant. “The sun was incredibly luminous and I saw it spin at extreme speed”.
Much-younger witness, Graciete Ferreira, 32, simply said she was “blinded instantly” by the light and thus “saw nothing”.
But with the annual pilgrimage to Fátima just a week away, and the image of Nossa Senhora de Fátima doing the rounds of the country’s churches in readiness, religious fervour is very much in the air.
Next year’s 100 year commemorations of the shepherd children’s sightings will be bringing the Pope to Portugal for a short visit. Hotels in Fátima have been fully booked for the event since last year, reports Observador website.
Meantime, Rui Agostinho, the director of Lisbon’s Astronomical Observatory has suggested yesterday’s sightings may have had more to do with the “difference of light” that the faithful experienced, stepping out of Ourém church from which they had been having a service, into the bright light of early May sunshine.