Tens of thousands gather for Pope’s Fatima visit

FILE PHOTO - A group of pilgrims from Lisbon embrace after their arrival at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima Friday, May 12 2017, in Fatima, Portugal. Pope Francis will canonize on Saturday two poor, illiterate shepherd children whose visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago marked one of the most important events of the 20th-century Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)

FATIMA, Portugal (AP) – The Latest on Pope Francis’ trip to Fatima shrine in Portugal (all times local):

3:00 p.m. – Tens of thousands of people are gathering in the small town of Fatima in Portugal to see Pope Francis, who is due to arrive for a visit.

Officials say they expect around 1 million people to converge on the rural town, which hosts one of the world’s most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites. Hotels and apartments were sold out months ago.

One hundred years ago, three Portuguese shepherd children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in Fatima, and the pontiff is visiting the shrine on the centenary of the “visions.”

Security is tight for the pope’s scheduled arrival at 4:20 p.m. (1520 GMT) Friday afternoon.

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis is to hold a Mass to make two of the shepherd children saints.

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9:15 a.m. – Pope Francis and pilgrims from around the world are flocking to a Catholic shrine town in Portugal to honor two poor, illiterate shepherd children whose visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago marked one of the most important events of the 20th-century Catholic Church.

Francis departed from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport on Friday afternoon to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions and canonize the children. He is hoping the message of peace that they reported 100 years ago, when Europe was in the throes of World War I, will resonate with the Catholic faithful today.

Thousands of pilgrims, waving flags from as far as Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba, braved a steady cold rain Friday as they waited for him, many spending the night outdoors. Over the past several days, church groups, families and individuals have made their way to Fatima, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon.

Carrying candles, rosaries and roses, they have gone to the statue dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima or tossed wax body parts – ears, hearts, limbs – into a huge fire to pray for healing.

 

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