Pope Francis has officially declared Francisco and Jacinta
Marto saints of the Catholic Church in front of hundreds of thousands of
pilgrims at Fatima, Portugal – teaching us that even young children can become
‘For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of
the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of
our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own,
after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having
sought the counsel of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define
Blessed Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto to be saints,’ Pope Francis
exclaimed, as the crowd roared with applause.
‘We enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to
be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
Pope Francis presided over their canonisation Mass during
his two-day pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal 12-13 May to take part in
celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima.
The brother and sister, Francisco and Jacinta, who tended to
their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima,
witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.
In her message to the children, Mary brought with her
requests for conversion, prayer (particularly the recitation of the rosary),
sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a three-part secret regarding the fate of
The children followed Mary’s requests, praying often, giving
their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their
daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.
With anti-Catholic sentiment very prevalent in the country,
the mayor in the district of Fatima had grown suspicious of the growingly
popular apparitions, and had unsuccessfully tried to get the children to
renounce their story.
Wanting to stop the children from seeing the fourth
apparition, Artur Santos, an apostate Catholic and high Mason who was the local
mayor, devised a ruse to kidnap the children before the scheduled day of her
Despite bribes, threats of death by burning oil, and
threatening to lock them in a cell with criminals, the children never recanted
Convicted by Mary’s requests and the vision of hell, both
children lived lives of prayer and penance after the apparitions, offering
themselves for sinners as Mary had asked. Francisco was known for his devotion
to the Eucharist and his strict physical mortifications, while Jacinta was
especially known for having a heart for the poor and the suffering.
Both children fell victim to the influenza epidemic of 1918
that swept through Europe. In October 1918, Mary again appeared to the sick
siblings and promised to take them to heaven soon. On 3 April, 1919, Francisco
declined hospital treatment for influenza and died the next day.
Jacinta was given hospital treatment in hopes of prolonging
her life, but she knew that she would soon join Francisco in heaven. On 19
February, 1920, Jacinta asked the hospital chaplain who heard her confession to
bring her Holy Communion and administer the last rites, because she was going
to die ‘the next night.’ But the priest said that her condition was not that
serious and that he would return the next day. The next day Jacinta was found
dead – she had died in her sleep.
Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta 13 May,
2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.
Both under 12 years old, they were the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in
the history of the Church.
Sister Lucia, the third visionary, lived much longer, dying
in 2005 at the age of 97. The Church is currently examining documents and
collecting testimonies for her beatification cause.
Official portrait of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, designed by Silvia Patricio. Courtesy of the Fatima Shrine.