Marian Apparitions of Fatima
The Marian apparitions of Fátima or the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima designate the six apparitions of the Virgin Mary as they would have taken place in Fátima, a small village in central Portugal, on six occasions during the year 1917 in three shepherd children – Lucie dos Santos and her cousins François and Jacinthe Marto. These apparitions, whose prophetic messages relate to prayer and the last ends, were at first the object of distrust, both on the part of the civil authorities and of the religious authorities. The "miracle of the sun", which closes the cycle of apparitions, will be the subject of great emotion among the crowd of 70,000 people gathered, and will be the subject of numerous controversies and publications.
Even before the official recognition of these apparitions by the Roman Catholic Church in 1930, many people went to the place of the apparitions to pray there. After this date, the popular success of the pilgrimage to Fatima transformed this place of apparitions into a great center of Christian pilgrimage (national and international).
Following these apparitions, one of the visionaries, Lucia dos Santos, asked the pope to “consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. If Pope Pius XI ignored the request, Pope Pius XII responded to it in 1942. Pope John Paul II renewed this consecration in 1984.
Political and social context
The political contextPortugal is a very formerly Catholic country which was won back from the Muslims in a strong struggle between the 10th and 13th centuries. Evangelization was very deep, the Catholic mentality is strongly anchored and is still, at the beginning of the 20th century, an intrinsic part of life in Portugal. Despite this, in 1908, the King of Portugal Charles I was assassinated with his eldest son by two carbonari. In 1910 a revolution overthrew the Portuguese monarchy and set up a "violently anticlerical" radical republican government. The radical party declares that, through the anti-religious measures it has taken (secularisation of the university, prohibition of religious education, seizure of churches, etc.), it has succeeded in “eradicating Catholicism from the country in two generations”. For example, Sebastião de Magalhães Lima, Grand Master of the Lusitano Grand Orient, declared that "in two years there will be no more vocations to the priesthood" in the country, and the Minister of Justice, Alfoso Costa had declared in Parliament that with "the new ideology introduced in the schools, the Catholic religion would have disappeared within two generations".
Two coup attempts took place between 1910 and 1917, with the aim of restoring the monarchy, accentuating tensions between the radical left parties and the right parties (but also the Catholic Church). In 1917, there is in the country, "a feeling of general insecurity" coupled with a collapse of the economy.
On May 24, 1911, in his encyclical Jamdudum in Lusitania, Pope Pius X vigorously rejected the secularization laws put in place by the new government. The new constitution, voted in 1911, is largely inspired by the French and Brazilian constitutions: Portugal is officially a secular and anticlerical country.
The First World War Since August 1914, Europe has been at war: the murderous conflict has already caused the death of two million soldiers. Engaged in the war alongside the allies from May 1916, Portugal has around 50,000 soldiers stationed in France.
The difficult life in the Portuguese countrysideFátima, located 130 km north of Lisbon, was, in 1917, a rural parish of 200 inhabitants, dispersed in about forty hamlets. The inhabitants are peasants who constantly work the ungrateful soil. Everyone is put to work for the daily work. Children are usually loaded