VATICAN CITY—The Vatican office which governs the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite has given priests permission to say a special Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima this year, noting the importance of the apparition’s centenary.
In an April 5 decree, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei gave permission for any priest of the Latin Rite to celebrate a votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 13, 2017 — the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal.
The decision was made because “many of the Christian faithful who are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite have a particular and fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima” and out of a wish “to encourage the devotion of the faithful to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima,” according to a translation of the decree made by Gregory DiPippo, editor of New Liturgical Movement.
The permission is significant because in the extraordinary form, May 13 is the third class feast of St. Robert Bellarmine — which means Our Lady of Fatima cannot normally be celebrated.
In the ordinary form, meanwhile, May 13 is already an optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima.
If a Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart is celebrated on May 13 in the extraordinary form, it may include a commemoration of St. Robert Bellarmine, as per the rubrics of the Roman Missal of 1962.
The Marian apparitions at Fatima are among the most famous of Mary’s appearances. On May 13, 1917, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto — ages 9 and 7 — and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were taking their sheep to graze when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary.
After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary then appeared to the children on the 13th of every month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer.
Francisco and Jacinta died in 1919 and 1920, respectively, and were beatified in 2000. The path to their canonization was opened in March, when a second miracle attributed to their intercession was recognized by Pope Francis.
Lucia became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005. Her cause for beatification is open.
In 1930, the Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Blessed Paul VI in 1967, and later by St. John Paul II and by Benedict XVI.
St. John Paul II had a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. After a harrowing assassination attempt in 1981, he credited his survival to her miraculous intervention. As a sign of his gratitude, he placed the bullet from the failed assassination in her crown.
Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage to the Fatima shrine for the centenary of the apparition next month.
He will visit the chapel of the apparitions and bless candles there on May 12. The following day, he will say Mass in the square before the shrine and greet the sick. He is also scheduled to meet with Portugal’s bishops, president, and prime minister.
Photo, Daniel Ibanez/CNA: Pope Francis with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima at his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 2015.