Fatima (Fides Service) - “All through its history the Portuguese people have been deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. At critical moments of its consolidation and expansion, Portugal has always turned to Mary for maternal protection. Among the many titles used to invoke her, the Immaculate Conception is undoubtedly the most popular. This devotion became permanent when in 1646 King Juan IV declared Our Lady of the Conception patroness of Portugal.
National celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception will be held at the Shrine of Our Lady Sameiro, where the image of the Blessed Mother was crowned exactly 100 hundred years ago. Among the special guests for the occasion Cardinal Eugénio de Araújo Sales, Papal Legate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Alfio Rapisarda, Papal Nuncio to Portugal, and almost all the Bishops of Portugal. On this occasion the shrine will receive the Golden Rose donated by the Supreme Pontiff.
This year the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, always celebrated with care in Fatima, will be extra special. The programme will start on the Vigil 7 December at 9pm with the recitation of the rosary in the Chapel of the Apparitions followed by a candle light procession to the Basilica where there will be the reading of the definition formula of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the singing of the “Akathistos” hymn. The Vigil will conclude with adoration of Jesus Christ, Son of Mary.
On 8 December there will be the recitation of the Rosary in the Chapel of the Apparitions at 10.15am followed by a solemn celebration of the Eucharist at the Altar of the Fence.
The programme will be in many languages since visitors and pilgrims are expected to come here from all over the world. Last year about 2,000 people took part in the Vigil and 25,000 took part in the Mass.
The programme at Fatima Shrine includes recitation of the Rosary at midday, 60.30pm and 9.30pm on Sundays and holidays. Every day at this shrine Immaculate Mary is invoked repeatedly at the end of each mystery of the Rosary with the prayer: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us as we turn to you!”.
May the Immaculate Virgin Mary, to whose Immaculate Heart recent Pontiffs have repeatedly consecrated the world and the Church, lead us along the paths of holiness and peace!” Mgr. Luciano Guerra, Rector of the Shrine of Fatima. (Agenzia Fides 6/12/2004 - righe 33; parole 436)