THE REMAINING visionary of Fátima, Sister Lúcia dos Santos, died last Sunday (February 13), aged 97 years, at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra. With her death disappears the last living memory of the legendary apparitions of Fátima. The visionary who, for decades, guarded the “Segredo de Fátima” (Secret of Fátima) always believed that she would leave this world on the 13th day or on a Saturday, and this belief has now been realised. The Bishop of Coimbra, From page 1
D. Albino Cleto, and several members of the sisterhood had been keeping a vigil at Sister Lúcia’s bedside during the last few days of her life. A personal nurse and doctor were also permanently in attendance and commented: “Sister Lúcia was mentally conscious until her last days, when she was comforted to receive the sacraments of our Lord.”
The nun showed one of her last signs of life on Saturday when she received a sympathetic message sent by Pope John Paul II, who had been informed of her deteriorating condition. According to the Bishop, Sister Lúcia apparently listened to the message and attempted to grasp the fax from the Vatican and read it for herself.
Her burial took place on Tuesday and her remains will be transferred in a year to nearby Fátima, one of Catholicism’s major pilgrimage sites.
Sister Lúcia’s cousins, Jacinto and Francisca, the other two Fátima visionaries, died as children in 1919 and 1920. They were beatified, the last step to sainthood, in 2000.
Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes, late on Sunday, declared that Tuesday (February 15) would be a day of national mourning. “I believe that Sister Lúcia is a great figure in the recent history of Portugal,” Lopes said in remarks carried on TSF radio. Despite elections taking place this Sunday (February 20) Santana Lopes’ centre-right Social Democrats Party (PSD) suspended their campaigns on Monday and Tuesday of this week because of her death. The opposition Socialist Party also scaled back their campaign activities as a mark of respect.
History of Fátima
The cult of Our Lady of Fátima started in 1917 when three children, tending sheep in a field at Cova da Iria near Fátima in central Portugal, saw a shining figure in an oak tree.
Ten-year-old Lúcia dos Santos and her younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marta, said the vision told them she had come from heaven and they must return at the same time on the 13th day of the month for the next five months.
On the last day, October 13, tens of thousands of pilgrims were in attendance and many claimed that long illnesses were cured and the blind were restored to sight.
The Virgin is said to have imparted to the children a message or secret in three-parts, including a horrifying vision of hell and prophecies foretelling World War II and the fall of Communism in Russia.
The Church was uneasy at first with the rapidly growing cult and authorised it only in 1929. Then, a grandiose sanctuary was built in Fátima to welcome pilgrims, with the encouragement of the ultra-conservative Salazar dictatorship.
Third secret revealed just five years ago
The third so-called secret was passed to the Vatican by Lúcia in the 1940s and was always thought to have been of an apocalyptic nature. The last secret was not actually revealed until as late as the year 2000 when the Pope visited Portugal. The belief was then announced that it related to the Pope’s attempted assassination that took place in Rome’s St Peter’s Square in 1981.
Every year, on the 13th of the month from May to October, services and candlelight processions are held, attended by hundreds of thousands of Portuguese and foreign devotees, who come to fulfil pledges made when a loved one recovers from sickness or to pray for the Virgin’s help. Many travel on foot for miles and some make a point of covering the last few yards on their knees.