A young man caresses Pope Francis' cheek as he greets pilgrims in Fatima A young man caresses Pope Francis' cheek as he greets pilgrims in Fatima  (Vatican Media)

WYD - Pope in Fatima: Blessings in families for generations

Our correspondent in Portugal, Francesca Merlo, describes the scene in Fatima as Pope Francis prays the Rosary with young people with disabilities and takes his time to greet and bless as many people as possible, making their hours of waiting worth it.

By Francesca Merlo - Fatima, Portugal

A dark hue covered the sky over Fatima, making the Sun, recently risen, blood red, whilst the moon on the other side of the Shrine was white as snow.

Along the streets of Fatima, outside the sanctuary, pilgrims continued to walk down the roads towards the entrance to the sanctuary, where Pope Francis would be arriving in under two hours, some carried stools, others carried icons, and others held their children, in their arms or by the hand.

Meanwhile, inside the Shrine, thousands of other pilgrims had already gathered. Some were sleeping, having arrived in the early hours of the morning to get front row seats. They packed up their mattresses and sleeping bags and drank out of their flasks. The railings were filled with banners and messages.

There was a different kind of energy surrounding the Shrine of Fatima on Saturday morning, different to any we have experienced over the last few days here at World Youth Day in Lisbon.

Pope Francis’ visit to Fatima, in fact, is not being counted as part of the World Youth Day celebrations, but as a separate visit.

Of the faithful gathered at the site, very few were wearing WYD credentials around their necks or little white hats. Instead, those queued up were generations of families, at times three or four generations. There were couples with newborn babies and young children; grandparents with their grandchildren; one couple, from Brazil, was there with their fourteen children.

In this sense of familiarity, those who arrived early seem to have done well to do so.

As Pope Francis drove down in his Popemobile, he really took his time, stopping and blessing countless babies and young children. The youngest looked just a few days old, and the oldest may have been around 4. That in itself seems like a good enough reason to get up early!

Then, the Pope led the Rosary in the Chapel of the Apparitions. Inside the chapel were around 100 young ill people, as well as a smaller number of inmates from Portugal’s Leicia prison.

Leading the faithful in a decade of the Rosary was a young lady with disabilities from Italy, Samantha, who admirably lead all 200,000 people in the prayer of the rosary, which ended with a round of applause.

The Holy Father, then, took his time to greet all the young people with disabilities present, demonstrating, once again, his closeness to all those who had been waiting a very long time for this moment.

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05 August 2023, 13:52