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Pope leads thousands in prayer at Portugal shrine

Pope leads thousands in prayer at Portugal shrine

The three revered children are dead.

Fatima became a major holy site after the 1917 visions, in which the Madonna is said to have shared three prophecies with the siblings and their 10-year-old cousin Lucia Dos Santos.

The visits ended in October with the "Miracle of the Sun", when others in Fatima at the time reported seeing the sun spinning in the sky which served as proof that the apparitions were authentic.

In an emotional outdoor service on a packed, 400,000-capacity esplanade at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, Catholic worshippers from all over the world sang and looked on, some crying, while many more watched the canonisation on giant screens from adjacent streets.

Thousands of pilgrims lined Francis' motorcade route and tossed flower petals, evidence that Latin America's first pope has a huge following in this largely Catholic country.

Pope Francis called on the pilgrims to follow the example of heroic virtue lived by St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, particularly their insistent prayer for sinners and their adoration of "the hidden Jesus" in the tabernacle. They died in the 1918-1919 European influenza pandemic.

(From L to R) Lúcia dos Santos and her two cousins, Jacinta Marto and her brother Francisco, as photographed in Portugal in 1917.

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The first two secrets were revealed soon and concerned a vision of hell, seen by believers as a prediction of the outbreak of World War Two, a warning that Russian Federation would "spread her errors" in the world, and a need for general conversion to God and prayer.

In fact, the next Pope was Pius XI, who died in February 1939, a few months before Hitler invaded Poland.

The pontiff, before a crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands, proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the newest of the Church's saints, in the town of Fatima.

The first vision in Fatima is said to have occurred as the children were pasturing sheep on the Cova da Iria field. "I couldn't ask for better, so he has answered all my prayers", she said. The text, written by Lucia, had been kept in a sealed envelope inside the Vatican for decades, with no pope daring to reveal it because of its terrifying contents: a "bishop dressed in white" - the pope - on his knees at the foot of a cross, killed in a hail of bullets and arrows, along with other bishops, priests and various lay Catholics.

One of the most famous sightings of the Virgin Mary happened in the small town of Lourdes in southern France.

Before the ceremony, a statue of the Virgin Mary was paraded around the square in bright sunshine as people threw petals at it.

One shrine he has avoided visiting is in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where six youngsters reported repeated visions of the Virgin starting in 1981.

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"You don't need to believe in the visitation to be a Catholic".

"Many people say they have seen the Virgin Mary but some could be fake and so the Church is quite skeptical when they first hear about it". Their goal is "to help live more fully" in accordance with Christ's teaching.

"But the thing is about Fatima that these three children were completely illiterate".

"I never judge a person without listening to them. This is the one way the Blessed Mother shows us she loves us".

The late Pope John Paul II was shot by a Turkish gunman on 13 May 1981.

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino). Pope Francis stands in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary as he celebrates a mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima Saturday, May 13, 2017, in Fatima, Portugal.

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