VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis already is looking ahead to 2017
and particularly to marking important Marian feasts that
Portuguese Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima
issued a statement April 25 saying that Pope Francis
authorized him to share publicly the pope's hope to go to
Fatima in 2017 for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions
of Our Lady of Fatima.
"Pope Francis confirmed to Bishop Antonio Marto that, 'if God
gives me life and health' he wants to go to Cova da Iria to
celebrate the centenary of the apparitions of Fatima," said a
statement posted on the website of the Shrine of Our Lady of
Fatima. Cova da Iria was the place near Fatima where three
shepherd children reported seeing Mary between May 13 and
Oct. 13, 1917.
The Fatima anniversary is not the only Marian anniversary
Pope Francis has said he wants to celebrate in 2017. When he
was in Brazil in 2013 for the celebration of World Youth Day,
he spent a day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.
After Mass at the shrine, he took a copy of the statue of
Mary outside with him to bless the thousands of people who
could not be accommodated in the church.
He asked the crowd to pray for him, especially that he would
be able to return to Aparecida in 2017 to celebrate the 300th
anniversary of the statue's discovery.
The image of Our Lady of Aparecida is a dark wooden sculpture
that was caught in the nets of three local fishermen in 1717.
One of the men kept the statue in his home for 15 years; his
neighbors, then people from farther away, came to consider it
an object of devotion. A chapel was built to house the statue
in 1734, and work on the first basilica began in 1834. In
1929, Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Aparecida the "queen
and patron of Brazil."