The visionaries of Fatima: Lucia dos Santos, right, with her cousins Sts Jacinta and Francisco Marto 

By Christopher Wells

Jun 23 2023

Pope Francis approves decrees recognizing the heroic virtues of five Servants of God, including Sr Lucia de Juesus Rosa dos Santos, one of the visionaries of Fatima; along with the martyrdom of twenty martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

Carmelite Sister Lucia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos, who, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto witnessed a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, has been declared Venerable by the Church.

The decree recognizing Sr Lucia’s heroic virtues was promulgated on Thursday with the approval of Pope Francis.

In 1916, Lucia and her two cousins reported being visited by an Angel in the area of Fatima, Portugal. The following year, beginning on 13 May, the children claimed to receive a series of apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, which culminated six months later with the famous “Miracle of the Sun” that was witnessed by tens of thousands of people.

After the untimely death of her cousins, who died a few years later due to Spanish flu, Sister Lucia remained the sole custodian of the message entrusted to her by Our Lady, which she transcribed, at the instigation of the Bishop of Leiria, José Alves Correia da Silvia, into four documents between 1935 and 1941.

A later document, dated 1944, contained the so-called “third secret,” was sent to Rome and opened for the first time in 1960. St John Paul II, who had a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, allowed the secret to be published in 2000.

Exceptionality and ordinariness

Sister Lucia spent her whole live devoted to the message she had received in Fatima. At first she entered the college of the Dorothean Sisters in Vilar; later she became a Carmelite in Coimbra, where she died on 13 February 2005.

The distinction between her life and the apparitions, the Decree says, “is also difficult because much of her suffering was due to them: she was always kept hidden, protected, guarded. One can see in her all the difficulty of keeping together the exceptionality of the events of which she was a spectator and the ordinariness of a monastic life like that of Carmel.”

The apparitions have been endorsed by various Popes, while the Church observes May 13th as an optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. Pope Francis visited Fatima in 2017 for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions, during which he canonized Francisco and Jacinta. With Thursday’s decree, Venerable Lucia’s cause for canonization continues to advance.

Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War

Thursday’s decree also recognises the martyrdom of twenty people killed out of “hatred of the faith” in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

Father Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez, born in Seville in 1880 and appointed parish priest in nearby Constantina in 1911, was arrested on the night of 19 July 1936 by Republican militiamen, and was executed in his sacristy four days later.

That summer marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, numerous other priests were executed in and around Seville, often without trial. Among the martyrs were Father Mariano Caballero Rubio, had his parish in Huelva burnt down before his arrest; seminarian Enrique Palacios Monrabà, who was arrested and killed along with his father at the age of 19;  as well as a lawyer, a pharmacist, members of the parish council and a bellboy of the Poor Clare nuns, who lived with his widowed mother near the monastery.

Over two thousand martyrs of the persecution in Spain have already been canonized, while the causes of some two thousand more continue to advance.

Four other new Venerables

Along with Sister Lucia, four other Servants of God saw their causes advanced on Thursday.

Sister Mary Lange, who left her native Cuba for the United States because of racial discrimination, founded the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore in 1829. The order is dedicated to school education.

Salesian Antônio de Almeida Lustosa, who served as Archbishop of Fortaleza, Brazil and died in 1974, became Venerable, was “convinced that the first evangelisation consists in restoring dignity to the poorest people and families.” He was also an essayist, scientist and artist.

Venetian priest Antonio Pagani was a Franciscan theologian at the Council of Trent, a promoter of the Catholic laity and founder of the Brothers of the Cross and the Society of the Dimissive Sisters in 1579. 

Finally, Sr Anna Cantalupo, a Vincentian nun from Catania, dedicated herself to caring for the sick poor, particularly war orphans, by organising spiritual care for World War II soldiers passing through the Sicilian city. 

The website of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints has links to short biographies of each of the new Venerable Servants of God (in Italian only). Vatican News