Pope Francis has approved the recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the shepherd children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, thus paving the way for their canonisation.
Pope Francis signed the decree for the Causes of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta Marto during a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the Vatican said.
The recognition of the miracle makes it likely that the canonisation ceremony for the two children will be scheduled soon. The cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation must vote to recommend their canonisation and then the Pope would convene the cardinals resident in Rome for a consistory to approve the sainthood.
Many people are hoping Pope Francis will preside over the canonisation ceremony during his visit to Fatima on May 12-13.
The pilgrimage will mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917, when nine-year-old Francisco and seven-year-old Jacinta, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until October 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
A year after the apparitions, both of the Marto children became ill during an influenza epidemic that plagued Europe. Francisco died on April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness on February 20, 1920, at the age of nine.
Francisco and Jacinta’s Cause was stalled for decades due to a debate on whether non-martyred children have the capacity to understand heroic virtues at a young age. However, in 1979, St John Paul II allowed their Cause to proceed; he declared them venerable in 1989 and beatified them in 2000.
Their cousin Lucia entered the Institute of the Sisters of St Dorothy and, later, obtained permission to enter the Carmelite convent of St Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.
Following her death, Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period before her Cause could open. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness last month and forwarded the information to the Vatican.
Pope Francis this week signed other decrees recognising miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues in six other Causes, the Vatican said.
The Pope also approved the bishops’ and cardinals’ vote to canonise two Brazilian priests, Blessed Andre de Soveral and Blessed Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, as well as Mateus Moreira and 27 lay people, who were killed in 1645 as violence broke out between Portuguese Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in Brazil.
Pope Francis also approved the vote to canonise three young Mexican martyrs, known as the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, who were among the first native converts in Mexico. Known only by their first names – Cristobal, Antonio and Juan – they were killed in 1529 for rejecting idolatry and polygamy in the name of their faith.
In addition, Pope Francis signed a decree recognising the martyrdom of Franciscan Claretian Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, who died in 1995 after being stabbed 54 times, apparently because of her work helping poor women in India organise themselves. With the signing of the decree, a date can be set for her beatification.