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500,000 gather in Fatima for the Celebration of Mass

May 13, 2010
An estimated 500,000 pilgrims were present this morning for Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. It was a sunny and warm morning there, despite the forecast of possible rain.  163 different pilgrim groups from 33 different countries were confirmed as participants for today's Mass. Thousands of others arrived on foot, others drove and camped out at the site of the Shrine.  Many waved handkerchiefs and Portuguese flags as the Popemobile made its way to the altar, stopping as two infants were raised to the window for the Holy Father to kiss and bless them.
FATIMA-MASSThe Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Bishop António Augusto dos Santos Marto gave opening remarks before Mass began, and the Pope gave the gift of a Chalice to the Bishop to commemorate his visit to Fatima (it's interesting to note that the chalice the Holy Father used at Mass today was the same one used by the Venerable John Paul II on his visit in 1982).
Pope Benedict then celebrated Mass with more than 1,500 cardinals, bishops and priests concelebrating. In his Homily, the Holy Father referred to himself as a pilgrim who had come like all those gathered there to pray in union with the Virgin Mary for her protection.
I too have come as a pilgrim to Fatima, to this “home” from which Mary chose to speak to us in modern times.  I have come to Fatima to rejoice in Mary’s presence and maternal protection.  I have come to Fatima, because today the pilgrim Church, willed by her Son as the instrument of evangelization and the sacrament of salvation, converges upon this place.  I have come to Fatima to pray, in union with Mary and so many pilgrims, for our human family, afflicted as it is by various ills and sufferings.
As this year marks the tenth anniversary of the beatification of two of the Fatima seers, and the fifth death anniversary of the third seer, the Holy Father made mention of them, connecting them with the Year for Priests:
... I have come to Fatima with the same sentiments as those of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lúcia, in order to entrust to Our Lady the intimate confession that “I love” Jesus, that the Church and priests “love” him and desire to keep their gaze fixed upon him as this Year for Priests comes to its end, and in order to entrust to Mary’s maternal protection priests, consecrated men and women, missionaries and all those who by their good works make the House of God a place of welcome and charitable outreach.
He called Fatima a place that is proof of the Lord's mercy and noted that in seven years time, 2017, it will celebrate it's 100th Anniversary of the first Apparition of the Blessed Virgin.
See the full text below:
HOLY MASS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Esplanade, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima
Dear Pilgrims,
“Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations […], they are a people whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).  So the first reading of this Eucharist began, and its words are wonderfully fulfilled in this assembly devoutly gathered at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima.  Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, I too have come as a pilgrim to Fatima, to this “home” from which Mary chose to speak to us in modern times.  I have come to Fatima to rejoice in Mary’s presence and maternal protection.  I have come to Fatima, because today the pilgrim Church, willed by her Son as the instrument of evangelization and the sacrament of salvation, converges upon this place.  I have come to Fatima to pray, in union with Mary and so many pilgrims, for our human family, afflicted as it is by various ills and sufferings.  Finally, I have come to Fatima with the same sentiments as those of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lúcia, in order to entrust to Our Lady the intimate confession that “I love” Jesus, that the Church and priests “love” him and desire to keep their gaze fixed upon him as this Year for Priests comes to its end, and in order to entrust to Mary’s maternal protection priests, consecrated men and women, missionaries and all those who by their good works make the House of God a place of welcome and charitable outreach.
Continue reading
After the Mass, and just before Benediction and short procession with the Blessed Sacrament, the Pope welcomed and blessed the sick present with a special blessing.  He encouraged them to embrace the hope and love of God leaving behind the "quicksand of illness and death and stand on the firm rock of divine love."  Here is the Holy Father's words of encouragement and consolation:
BLESSING OF THE SICK
Esplanade, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima
Brief address of the Holy Father
Dear brothers and sisters who are sick,
Before I walk among you carrying the monstrance containing Jesus present in the Eucharist, I would like to offer you a word of encouragement and hope, a word which I extend to all those following us on television and radio, and to those without even such means, but who are united to us by the deeper bonds of the Spirit, that is, in faith and prayer.
My dear brother and sister, in the eyes of God you are “worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way — in flesh and blood — as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus's Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love — and so the star of hope rises” (Spe Salvi, 39).  With such hope in your heart, you can leave behind the quicksand of illness and death and stand on the firm rock of divine love.  In other words, you can overcome the feeling of the uselessness of suffering which consumes a person from within and makes him feel a burden to those around him when, in reality, suffering which is lived with Jesus assists in the salvation of your brethren.
How is this possible?  Because the spring of divine power rises in the midst of human weakness.  This is the paradox of the Gospel.  Therefore, the divine Master, instead of explaining the reasons for suffering, preferred to call everyone to follow him, saying: Take up your cross and follow me (cf. Mk 8:34).  Come with me.  With your suffering, take part in the work of salvation which is realized through my suffering, by means of my cross.  As you gradually embrace your own cross, uniting yourself spiritually to my cross, the salvific meaning of suffering will be revealed to you.  In suffering, you will discover an interior peace and even spiritual joy.
Dear friends who are sick, welcome the call of Jesus who will shortly pass among you in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and entrust to him every setback and pain that you face, so that they become - according to his design – a means of redemption for the whole world.  You will be redeemers with the Redeemer, just as you are sons in the Son.  At the cross… stands the mother of Jesus, our mother.
After Benediction, and the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was returned to the Chapel of the Apparitions, the Holy Father entered into the Fatima Basilica, and prayed before the tombs of the three visionaries.  Later today, he will meet with seven thousand members of pastoral and social organizations.  He will also bless the first stone of the Continuing Care Unit of Benedict XVI which the Portuguese Union of Mercy will begin constructing in Fatima.  Later on in the day he will meet with the Bishops of Portugal.   These events will not be televised, but you will be able to find text of the Holy Father's addresses on the Salt + Light blog later today.
We will also re-broadcast today's Mass from the Esplanade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at 12:00pm ET/9:00am PT and again at 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT.
Our live coverage with Matthew Harrison and Father John Bertao, from the Archdiocese of Toronto, continues tomorrow with Mass in Porto, the final stop of Pope Benedict's Apostolic Visit to Portugal.  Our coverage begins Friday at 5am ET.
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CNS photo/Paulo Cunha, Reuters
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