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Fatima Visionary Declared ‘Venerable’ by Pope Francis 

Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos is seen in this May 16, 2000, file photo. (CNS photo courtesy of Shrine of Fatima)

by Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Sister Lúcia dos Santos, who, with her cousins, reported seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary when she was a child in Fátima, Portugal, has received a decree of heroic virtues from Pope Francis, meaning she now has the title “venerable.”

Sister Lúcia died in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2005 at the age of 97. A miracle attributed to her intercession is still necessary before she can be beatified, and another miracle would need to be attributed to her intercession in order for her to become a saint. Pope Francis canonized her cousins, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, in 2017.

Sister Lúcia was 10 years old when she and her cousins first saw Mary at Fátima on May 13, 1917. But her sainthood cause examined her entire life and the huge volumes of correspondence she wrote as a cloistered Carmelite nun.

Much of that correspondence involved her attempts to clarify what became known as the “secrets” of Fatima, which Sister Lúcia made known. In the 1930s, she shared the first two parts. They included a vision of hell shown to the children, along with prophecies concerning the outbreak of World War II, the rise of communism, and the ultimate triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, especially in Russia if the country was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart.

Sister Lúcia wrote down the third part of the message, sealed it in an envelope and gave it to her local bishop. The message was sent to the Vatican in 1957, where successive popes read it, but decided not to reveal its contents.

St. John Paul II ordered the so-called “third secret” of Fatima to be published in 2000; he believed the secret, actually a vision, referred to the 20th-century persecution of the Church under Nazism and communism and spoke of the 1981 attempt to assassinate him. The pope was shot May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first of the Fatima apparitions.

Pope Francis signed the decree June 22. Meeting with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, he also declared venerable Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, founder of the first Catholic order of African American nuns.

The pope also recognized the martyrdom of Father Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez and 19 other diocesan priests, laymen, and laywomen killed in 1939 during the Spanish Civil War. The recognition of martyrdom clears the way for their beatification without a miracle.

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