Posted by esbvm on 15th May 2009
The Portuguese National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima came about as a result of thee appearances of an angel to three children (‘the little shepherds’) in 1916, and the appearance on the 13th of each month from May to October 1917 to the same children of a beautiful lady who imparted to them a number of prophecies and asked them to pray the Rosary in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the First World War.
I travelled to Fatima for a week spanning the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (May 13th) with the Ecumenical Friends of Fatima Association (EFFA), inaugurated and consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on Tuesday May 15th 2001 by the Rt Rev’d Edwin Barnes, then Bishop of Richborough and first Episcopal President of the Association, in the presence of His Excellency Seraphim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva, then Bishop of Leira-Fatima.
The membership of EFFA is largely Anglican, with a few Catholics, some of them Anglican converts to Catholicism for whom Fatima has been instrumental in their conversion experience. The ecumenical dimension comes not so much from its membership than from the practical and generous relationship that has been developed by Fr Malcolm Gray SSC, priest director of EFFA, and the present and former bishops of Leira-Fatima.
The ecumenical generosity of the welcome EFFA enjoys at Fatima allows the Anglican pilgrims to celebrate a daily Eucharist at altars around the shrine, and the Anglican EFFA clergy to process robed in the procession for the International Mass of the Day, and to be seated behind the principal group of concelebrants on the steps of the Basilica. To be so treated was a moving and significant experience.
Perhaps most moving for me was the candlelit International Mass the night before. To be at Mass with an estimated 500,000 people felt truly to be amidst the body of Christ – while at the same time, as an Anglican, feeling the sadness of not quite being part of it, despite the generosity of the welcome extended to us as a group.
At the time of its creation, EFFA determined that it should not be just one more of the many Marian societies, ecumenical and otherwise, that exist. To this end, Bishop Seraphim was asked in what apostolate EFFA could engage; the result of this is that EFFA makes a corporate financial sacrifice in support of the Vida e Paz community, a drug-rehabilitation community that places Our Lady at the centre of its work and which enjoys a remarkable success rate. Our visit there was impressive and moving.
Pope John Paul II had a very particular relationship with the Shrine at Fatima. The attempt on his life in St Peter’s Square was made on May 13th 1981 – the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. He attributed his recovery in large part to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima and one year after the assassination attempt, he spent May 12th and 13th at Fatima, making a public act of consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the end of Communism.
It was a remarkable experience both of a principal shrine of Our Lady and an ecumenical welcome that sort not to conceal our separation from the Catholic Church but nevertheless honoured us and our presence in common dedication to Our Lady in her shrine at Fatima.
Fr Giles Pinnock SSC
St Mary-the-Virgin, Kenton