Locals and swarms of pilgrims from various parts of the world gathered in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome recently to show their Marian devotion and join in communal prayer. From April 3-7, the Pontifical Church Saint Thomas of Villanova hosted the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Parish priest Father Pietro Diletti told CNA that the arrival of the statue has sparked an intensity and ardor of faith within the local community as well as the throngs of visitors. “It's been in the thousands because there are so many pilgrims — there is a continual coming and going of even non-Catholics who try to get close to Madonna,” he said. “The Masses are overflowing and also the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.” “I'm glad that this devotion is coming from the hearts of people.” The priest noted that some of the locals in Castel Gandolfo have visited the statue at its original home in Portugal. “I had never been to Fatima,” Fr. Diletti said, but he reflected that the “dozen of the faithful who visited the Madonna” in Portugal have now had the experience of the statue reciprocating the gesture. The church which houses the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was designed by Italian artist and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini and built in 1651. In earlier years, it was a crypt called the Church of St. Nicholas and Gabriel the Archangel, but at the request of Alexander VII, it was restored by Bernini and made into the present-day structure. Of all Marian apparitions, those relating to Our Lady of Fatima are among the most famous. On May 13, 1917, brothers Francisco and Jacinta Marto — 9 and 7 years-old — and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were with their sheep grazing near the Portuguese town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary. After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary would come to the children on the 13th of the month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer. In 1930, the Catholic Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Pope Paul VI on May 13, 1967, and later by Pope John Paul II.
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