Hundreds of thousands of Poles gathered to pray the rosary along their country’s border on Saturday.
The “Rosary to the Borders” event was organised by lay Catholics but had official support too, with 320 churches from 22 dioceses taking part.
Poles gathered in 4,000 locations, from the Baltic coastline in the north to the mountains in the south. Prayers were also said in chapels at airports and by soldiers at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan, according to the broadcaster TVN.
The event marked the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima as well as the anniversary of the 16th-century battle of Lepanto, when a Christian fleet defeated invading Ottoman forces.
Pope Pius V instituted the feast day of Our Lady of Victories – now known as Our Lady of the Rosary – to commemorate the triumph, which he credited to the intercession of Mary.
Some organisers described the battle as “saving Europe from Islamisation”.
Basia Sibinska, who travelled from central Poland to the Czech border, told Associated Press: “It’s a really serious thing for us. We want to pray for peace, we want to pray for our safety. Of course, everyone comes here with a different motivation. But the most important thing is to create something like a circle of a prayer alongside the entire border, intense and passionate.”
A Polish bishops’ spokesman said it was probably the biggest prayer event in Europe since World Youth Day 2016 in Kraków.
Legionaries seminary rector admits fathering children
The legionaries of Christ pledged its commitment to renewal and reform as it released information about a former rector who had publicly acknowledged being the father of two children.
Fr Oscar Turrion, who served as rector of the order’s seminary in Rome, informed his superiors of “his intention to leave priestly ministry” in light of the revelations, the order said in an online communique.
The order said that it was “conscious of the impact that the negative example of a formator and rector” had on the Christian faithful, and on those responsible for institutions dedicated to the formation of candidates to the priesthood.
“We are deeply saddened that the recent history of our congregation has quenched the fervour of some of our members. We are firmly committed to accompanying our brothers in moments of difficulty. Likewise, we reiterate our commitment to the path of renewal that we continue to follow led by the Church,” it said.
In 2014 the order apologised for the actions of its founder, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, who had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians.
Church risks clash with Duterte
Catholic bishops are not out to “undermine” President Rodrigo Duterte by offering sanctuary to police officers who allegedly witnessed drug killings, a conference spokesman has said.
Fr Jerome Secillano, secretary of the bishops’ public affairs office, said that some officers had sought the help and protection of the Church. “The Church is not one to take steps to … undermine the president,” he told UCA News.