The Goan Catholic community has had a strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima over the decades and besides Goan settlers in Portugal, scores of devotees have also arrived from Goa on special tours to attend the event.
For them, it is a once-in-lifetime experience to witness Pope Francis canonizing Jacinta and Francisco Marto, marking the 100th anniversary of the first Apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.
Kenyan-born freelance tour guide, Agnelo Fernandes, who emigrated to Goa at a young age and currently lives in Lisbon since last three decades, said the sanctuary and local authorities are fully geared up for the event.
“Thousands of pilgrims will gather in the huge open square where Pope Francis will conduct the service to canonize Francisco and Jacinta at the modern basilica dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity,” informed Fernandes, who makes regular visits to Goa.
“The old basilica is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, which houses the tombs of the seers. The sanctuary has kept pace with technology and has a 24-hour webcam focused on the site of the apparitions and accessible through their website. The Portuguese RTP TV and other channels are beaming live coverage of various events at Fatima,” said Fernandes.
He estimated that 42,000 pilgrims are expected to trek on foot from far-flung localities within Portugal in fulfilment of promises and vows made to Mother Mary.
“Majority of Goans in Portugal live in Lisbon and suburban areas, about 140 km away from the Marian shrine at Fatima. I won’t be surprised to find Goans in these groups from various parishes, since we have an instinct to actively participate in community services.”
“Every Goan residing in Portugal will try to be present at Fatima on May 13, not only to celebrate the centenary, but to also welcome Pope Francis,” he added.
Admitting that Goans like him have deep attachments for Fatima, Fernandes said he was glad that Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao has appealed to his flock in Goa to participate in Marian services throughout Goa archdiocese on Saturday.
“I had the privilege to meet Archbishop Ferrao in Lisbon shortly after he returned from Fatima after officiating as the main celebrant at the October 13 services in 2015. It was indeed exhilarating to watch a son from Goa preside at the Altar of the World, as Fatima is known,” said Fernandes.
“Fatima definitely has a strong bond with Goa and will continue for generations to come. Deep within the heart of every Goan is a desire to make a personal visit to her shrine at Fatima,” he added. The awe-inspiring experiences at Fatima are not restricted to the faithful alone. Says Harsh Kamat, a Goan photographer currently pursuing further studies in Lisbon:
“Every Goan, whether Hindu or Christian, are affectionately attached to Portugal. The number of Goans visiting Portugal has increased and these Goan tourists visit Fatima.”
“I am a staunch atheist and yet, I love visiting such places. The last time I visited Fatima, I had goosebumps listening to the prayers,” admitted Kamat.
Jose Vevek Aroja of Goan origin and presently in Lisbon, said the centenary celebrations for the Apparitions at Fatima “is a spectacular event both for Goans in Portugal and worldwide.”
“The importance of Our Lady of Fatima in my life is beyond imagination. Many Catholic houses in Goa have pictures of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary and that signifies the importance of our great reverence.”
“A large number of Goans residing in Portugal make constant visits to the Fatima Shrine and May 13 is a very important day in our lives,” said Aroja.