The detailed programme of a planned visit in May by Pope Francis to the Catholic shrine at Fátima, Portugal's most important site of religious pilgrimage, should be released "within a few days", the shrine's dean, Carlos Cabecinhas, said.
"Normally, it is announced about two months in advance," Cabecinhas said during a seminar in Fátima on the visit and related tourism activities.
He recalled that in December "the Vatican officially announced that the Pope Francis was coming to Portugal, responding to the invitation that had been made to him by the Portuguese bishops and by the President of the Republic." The visit is scheduled for 12 and 13 May.
Although full details are not yet available, the dean noted that, with previous papal visits, "the programme of major pilgrimages to the shrine was maintained" and the "broad lines" of the visit should be similar to those.
However, Pope Francis does not plan to visit any other parts of Portugal, unlike his two predecessors when they visited the shrine.
"He will come just to Fátima, as a pilgrim, to pray with the pilgrims present here and with those who will accompany him through the media," Cabecinhas said.
The pontiff's visit to the shrine at Cova da Iria in Fátima is to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to three child shepherds.
Meanwhile, foreign tour companies attending the same seminar expressed satisfaction at the way infrastructure and hotel capacity in Fátima had developed, and said they expected strong growth in visitor numbers this year.
At the seminar's closing session Portugal's secretary of state for tourism, Ana Mendes Godinho, called on companies in the sector to overcome any lingering "preconceptions" about the religious segment of the market, and work together to make Fátima an "anchor" to promote Portugal abroad. She noted that last year Portugal had seen growth in the number of tourists from markets where it had previously made few inroads, such as the US, South Korea, Brazil and Poland, "markets that have a lot of affinity with religious tourism" and which sector companies should therefore make the most of.