Fatima, Portugal, May 12, 2017 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis asked pilgrims in Fatima on Friday evening to think about the qualities the Virgin Mary possesses, being careful not to make her into something she is not — especially elevating her mercifulness above that of her Son.

“Pilgrims with Mary … but which Mary? A teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the ‘narrow way’ of the cross by giving us an example, or a Lady ‘unapproachable’ and impossible to imitate?” “The Virgin Mary of the Gospel, venerated by the Church at prayer, or a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge; one more merciful than the Lamb slain for us?” Pope Francis asked May 12.

It is through Mary’s cooperation and participation in salvation that she also became a channel of God’s mercy, he explained, praying that with Mary, we might “each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything.” “No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s face as did Mary,” he continued, and “she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father.”

Pope Francis greeted pilgrims before leading the rosary at the Chapel of the Apparitions on the first night of his two-day pilgrimage to Fatima May 12-13 to celebrate the centenary of Mary's appearance to three shepherd children in 1917. During the visit to Fatima, the Pope will also say Mass, presiding over the canonization of two of the Fatima visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

In his greeting, Francis said that we do a great injustice to God and his grace if we speak of his justice without speaking also of his mercy. “Obviously, God's mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment,” he said. Because Christ redeemed our sin upon the cross, “we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved,” he explained.

Speaking of the rosary he would pray shortly, he said that in the recitation of the prayer’s mysteries we can contemplate the moments of Mary’s life: the joyful, the luminous, the sorrowful, and the glorious, as they happen, the Pope said. “Each time we recite the rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world.”

Quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis said that in looking at Mary we are able to believe again “in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.” “In her, we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves.”

“Thank you for your welcome and for joining me on this pilgrimage of hope and peace,” he said, assuring those united with him, either physically or spiritually, that they have a special place in his heart. He said that he felt Christ had entrusted them all to him, especially those most in need, as Our Lady of Fatima taught in one of her apparitions to the shepherd children. “May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord’s blessing!”

Ending his message with a prayer, Francis prayed that “under the watchful gaze” of the Virgin Mary they may all come to sing about the mercy of God with joy and gladness, crying out that the God would show to him and to each of them the mercy he has shown his saints. “Out of the pride of my heart, I went astray, following my own ambitions and interests, without gaining any crown of glory!” he prayed. “My one hope of glory, Lord, is this: that your Mother will take me in her arms, shelter me beneath her mantle, and set me close to your heart. Amen.”