The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit the holy shrine of Fátima, Portugal, on 12 and 13 May 2017.
The Holy See’s press office said: “On the occasion of the centenary of the Apparitions of the Virgin Mary (…) and welcoming the invitation by the President of the Republic and the Portuguese bishops, His Holiness Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage to the Our Lady of Fátima Shrine on 12 and 13 May, 2017.”
This comes after the office of Portugal’s president earlier confirmed that Pope Francis is to travel to the Catholic shrine at Fátima in May for events to mark 100 years since three child shepherds reported seeing the Virgin Mary there.
“Following the invitation made by his Excellency the President of the Republic at the time of his trip to the Holy See, the first foreign trip after his inauguration, his Holiness Pope Francis will come in pilgrimage to the Fátima Shrine on 12 and 13 May, 2017, so marking the centenary of the apparitions at Cova da Iria,” the president’s office announced.
The official announcement follows comments from the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente, to the effect that the pontiff would not pass through Lisbon or any other cities in Portugal during the visit.
Speaking in November, Clemente said the Pope was very clear in what he wanted: “I want to go to Fátima, only to Fátima, to see Our Lady”.
If the pontiff does not visit Lisbon, his plane may well land at the Monte Real air-base near Leiria.
Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, made his first foreign trip to the Vatican a week after taking office. He met Pope Francis alone for about half an hour.
During the meeting, de Sousa formally invited the Pontiff to visit Fátima next May. While indicating to journalists afterwards that he was not able to repeat what the answer had been, he said that he was happy.
Pope Francis will be the fourth Pope to visit Portugal, after Pope Paul VI – 50th anniversary of the apparitions -, Pope John Paul II (12-15 May, 1982, 10-13 May, 1991 and 12-13 May, 2000) and Pope Benedict XVI (11-14 May, 2010).