VATICAN CITY — On Thursday Pope Francis approved the second and final miracle needed to canonize Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the shepherd children who witnessed the Fatima Marian apparitions.
The Pope approved the miracle in a March 23 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he advanced six other causes, approving one other miracle, two causes for martyrdom and three causes of heroic virtue.
In addition, the Pope also approved a positive vote from members of the canonization for six martyrs who are already “Blessed” but do not yet have a second miracle for their cause.
However, the most significant of the causes approved is that of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the approval of the second miracle, the two may now be canonized saints. It is likely Pope Francis will preside over their canonization himself while in Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary of the apparitions.
Francisco and Jacinta are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church.
The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Servant of God Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.
During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.
In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.
Bed-ridden, Francisco requested his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 14, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness, as well. She was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital and operated on for an abscess in her chest, but her health did not improve. She died Feb. 20, 1920.
Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, teaching us that even young children can become saints.
In addition to Francisco and Jacinta, the Pope also approved a miracle for Blessed Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, allowing for his canonization.
Causes for martyrdom approved by the Pope — meaning they can be beatified — include Father Giuseppe Maria Fernández Sánchez and his 32 companions, who were priests and coadjutor brothers of the Congregation of the Mission, as well as six laypersons from the Association of the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who were killed in hatred of the faith in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.
Another martyrdom cause approved by the Pope was that of Servant of God Regina Maria Vattalil, a Poor Clare nun killed in hatred of the faith in 1995.
The martyrs who were already “Blessed” but may now be canonized based on the congregation’s vote are: Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, diocesan priests; Matteo Moreira, layman, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil in 1645; and Cristoforo, Antonio and Giovanni, teenagers, killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529.
He also declared the heroic virtue of the following people: Daniele da Samarate, a Capuchin priest; Macrina Raparelli, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Basiliane Daughters of St. Macrina; and Daniela Zanetta, a laywoman.