Diocesan phase of Fatima visionary's sainthood cause completed

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paulo Carrico, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — The Diocese
of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Carmelite Sister Lucia
dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.

Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the
local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the
Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in
2005 at the age of 97.

ceremony included the sealing of 50 volumes — 15,000 pages — of evidence and
witness testimonies detailing the life of Sister Lucia. The documents sealed at
the ceremony were to be shipped to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes at the Vatican.

After a thorough review of the materials and a
judgment that Sister Lucia heroically lived the Christian virtues, her cause
still would require the
recognition of two miracles — one for beatification and another for
canonization — attributed to her intercession.

The Marian
apparitions at Fatima began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia, along with
her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary.

apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared
worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

Romano Gambalunga, postulator of the visionary’s cause, said that while
“Lucia is already a saint in the eyes” of many people, “the
prudent path of the church is that she is proposed to all, not just those who

became holy over the years, not because of the apparitions,” Father Gambalunga
told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops’ conference. Without providing details, he said she had a “spiritual experience” in the convent.

While many
hope her heroic virtues will be recognized by the church soon, it is important
“not to do things in a hurry,” he said Feb. 13.

evidence and testimonies gathered for Sister Lucia’s cause, he said, provide
“a great occasion for spiritual and theological deepening,” and the material will help “illuminate
the history of the church over the last 100 years.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima May
12-13 and many people hope he will use the occasion to canonize Sister Lucia’s
cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, who were beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima told Radio
Renascenca, the Portuguese bishops’ radio station, that while nothing is certain, he is “deeply
hopeful” the canonization will take place this year, the centenary of the apparitions.

are waiting and continue to pray to the Lord. But I hope that, during the
centenary, we will have the grace and joy to participate in the
canonization,” he said.

Marto also admitted that
“he is a convert,” who, as a priest, was initially skeptical
of the Marian apparitions in Fatima.

“I was
a skeptic. I didn’t care; I did not take an interest nor did I take a position.
I understood it as something for children,” Bishop Marto said.

skepticism changed into belief after attending a conference on the apparitions
and reading Sister Lucia’s memoirs, he told the radio station. “I was deeply impressed, both by the authenticity of the testimony
she gave and by the seriousness of the problems she dealt with. I read her
memoirs three times to find the historical and ecclesial context” of the

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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