Pope Francis paid a visit to the famed Catholic Shrine of Fatima in Portugal on Saturday, saying the rosary for global peace with over 200,000 people at the place where the Church claims the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
The 86-year-old Pope avoided reading a speech that was scheduled for his two-hour visit to the world-famous shrine north of Lisbon and was meant to be the highlight of the day.
The omission did not appear to imply that the pope was suffering from any health problems. Later, when an aide gently wheeled his wheelchair through the gathering, he greeted scores of people individually.
As he made his way back to a helicopter bringing him to the next event on his five-day tour to Portugal, he frequently stopped to kiss newborns and soothe the sick.
The pope’s apparent last-minute decision to forego the address, according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni, had nothing to do with Francis’ vision.
Since the trip began on Wednesday, Francis has abbreviated some addresses or decided to talk off-script. On one occasion, he mentioned that he was experiencing difficulties with his spectacles.
“The pope always addresses the people he meets first, as a shepherd, and speaks accordingly,” Bruni remarked in answer to reporters’ questioning.
Later, on Francis’ account on X, the site previously known as Twitter, the Vatican released a portion of the unread speech, which had been touted by Vatican media prior to the trip as a call to cease the violence in Ukraine.
“We consecrate the Church and the world to you (the Virgin Mary), especially those countries at war.” Please bring us peace. “You, Virgin of the Way, open paths where none appear to exist,” it said.
Francis flew in from Lisbon, the site of a Catholic youth festival, for his second visit to the shrine, which attracts millions of visitors each year.
A smoky cloud created by a wildfire near Castelo Branco, approximately 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Fatima, hung over one side of the sanctuary at the start of his visit, and small flecks of ash dropped. It eventually faded away.
Since the children’s first claimed apparition of the Virgin Mary on May 13, 1917, Fatima has fascinated Catholics.
Francisco and Jacinta Marto, siblings who died several years later, were made saints in 2017. Lucia Dos Santos, the third, became a nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97. Efforts are being made to declare her a saint as well.
The youngsters said Madonna sent them three messages known as the Fatima Secrets.
The first two were revealed soon after, and they involved a vision of hell, which believers saw as a forecast of the onset of World War Two, a warning that Russia would “spread her errors” throughout the globe, and a call for mass conversion to God and prayer.
The third was only known to Sister Lucia and the popes. For more than three-quarters of a century, it captivated the globe, producing novels and cults claiming it was the date of the end of the world.
The Vatican stated in 2000 that it was a foreshadowing of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on May 13, the same day as the first recorded apparition in 1917.