Papal Pilgrimage to Portugal

Papal pilgrimage to Portugal

Pope Benedict XVI pilgrimage to Portugal

Pope Benedict XVI pilgrimage to Portugal

"He is a Pope with a vision that is so deeply rooted in a clear inspired understanding of humanity that he will know how to speak to a European capital city - a world capital city - in which so many different influences are found, so many different faiths ebb and flow, and so much misunderstanding exists about the possibilities around religious belief."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols addressed these words to a group of journalists, gathered together on 4 May at Allen Hall, the Westminster archdiocesan seminary for the annual celebration of the 2010 World Communications Day.

Travelling to Portugal for a 4-day apostolic visit from 11-14 May, Pope Benedict showed his willingness to address an increasingly secularised Europe that is also searching for deeper meaning:

“I think the mission of Europe… is to find a path to dialogue, to integrate faith, rationality, and modernity in a single anthropological vision of the concrete human person and render that vision for the future of humanity…”

In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Holy Father was unafraid to address the question of the ethics of the global economy.

"Progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral. The mere fact of emerging from economic backwardness, though positive in itself, does not resolve the complex issues of human advancement...” Caritas in veritate:23

En route to Portugal, he elaborated on this theme, pointing out that economics must be underpinned by sound ethical considerations.

“We can see today that a pure economic pragmatism which ignores the reality of the human person, who is inherently ethical, has no positive ending, but creates irresolvable problems. This is the moment to recognize that ethics is not something exterior, but rather interior to all forms of rationality, including economic reason.”

The Pope’s visit to Portugal, and especially to Fatima for the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three children to whom Our Lady appeared on 13 May 1917. Both children died in the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-20. Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.

The third of the children, Lucia Santos, became a Discalced Carmelite nun and died aged 97 on 13 February 2005. She reportedly saw Mary in private visions periodically throughout her life.

The Three Secrets of Fatima consist of a series of prophecies given to the three children, who saw Our Lady six times between May and October 1917. According to the most popular interpretation, the three secrets involve Hell, World War I and II, and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. When asked about the Third Secret, which was only revealed to the world in June 2000, Pope Benedict declared:

“The important point is that the message, the answer of Fatima… is the fundamental response: permanent conversion, penance, prayer, and the three cardinal virtues: faith, hope and charity...”

He continued speaking, extending the message of the Third Secret to include the resolution of the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice.

“In terms of what we today can discover in this message, attacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice.”

Whilst giving a theological insight into the message of Fatima, the Holy Father also hinted at his personal suffering as he has tried to deal with the sex abuse scandal.

“It is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision, one speaks about and sees the necessity of suffering by the Church, which is focused on the person of the Pope, but the Pope stands for the church, and therefore sufferings of the Church are announced. The Lord told us that the Church will always be suffering in various ways, up to the end of the world.”

Yet there is hope. Although the Church is currently experiencing great suffering, there is also the assurance that God’s presence is stronger than the evil.

“…We have to re-learn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. That is how we respond, and we need to be realistic in expecting that evil will always attack, from within and from outside, but the forces of good are also always present, and finally the Lord is stronger than evil and the Virgin Mary is for us the visible maternal guarantee that the will of God is always the last word in history.”