ROME — Wednesday evening, just two days ahead of his trip to Fatima, Pope Francis sent a video message to the people of Portugal asking them to be with him during his pilgrimage, whether physically or spiritually, as he presents flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“I need to feel your closeness, whether physical or spiritual; the important thing is that it come from the heart. In this way, I can arrange my bouquet of flowers, my ‘golden rose,’” he said in the May 10 video message.
“I want to meet everyone at the feet of the Virgin Mother.”
In the message, Francis said he had received many messages asking him to come to people’s homes, communities and towns during his visit, but that he was not able to accept, as much as he would like to.
He also thanked the various Portuguese authorities for being understanding about his decision to restrict his trip to only the usual events associated with a pilgrimage to Fatima, such as praying the rosary at the prayer vigil and visiting the Chapel of the Apparitions.
“Only a few days remain before our pilgrimage, mine and yours, to the feet of Our Lady of Fatima,” he said. “These are days of joy in expectation of our encounter in the home of Mary our Mother.
“It is as the universal pastor of the Church that I would like to come before the Madonna and to offer her a bouquet of the most beautiful ‘blossoms’ that Jesus has entrusted to my care (cf. Jn 21:15-17),” he continued.
And this means everyone around the world, “none excluded,” he explained. “That is why I need to have all of you join me there.
“With all of us forming ‘one heart and soul’ (cf. Acts 4:32), I will then entrust you to Our Lady, asking her to whisper to each one of you: ‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that leads you to God’ (Apparition of June, 1917).”
In the video, Francis called the meeting “our pilgrimage,” the motto for which is ‘With Mary, a pilgrim in hope and in peace.’ The program for the visit contains many opportunities for prayer and conversion of heart, he said.
“I am happy to know that in anticipation of that blessed moment, the culmination of a century of blessed moments, you have been preparing yourselves by intense prayer,” he noted. “Prayer enlarges our hearts and makes them ready to receive God’s gifts. I thank you for all the prayers and sacrifices that you offer daily for me. I need them, because I am a sinner among sinners.”
Through prayer, he said, he receives light to his eyes, which “enables me to see others as God sees them, and to love others as he loves them.”
The pope makes the two-day pilgrimage to Fatima May 12-13 to celebrate the centenary of Mary’s appearance to three shepherd children in 1917.
During the trip, the pope will also celebrate Mass, presiding over the canonization of two of the child visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marta.
“In his name, I will come among you and have the joy of sharing with everyone the Gospel of hope and peace,” he concluded his message. “May the Lord bless you, and the Virgin Mother protect you!”