Fatima – National Celebration of the Pauline Year
On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, more than 10,000 pilgrims gathered at the world-famous Marian Shrine of Fatima to participate in a Eucharistic Liturgy presided over by the Cardinal of Lisbon and his concelebrants: the Apostolic Nunzio, 25 bishops and more than 200 priests.
In his introduction to the Liturgy, Chaldean-rite Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria offered the faithful a very clear explanation of the binomial Fatima-Paul, saying that, like the Damascus event, Marys message to the world was that everyone should do penance and convert their lives. Both Damascus and Fatima should prompt us to re-examine our own conversion so as to see the loving hand of God at work in our life and, as a result, show the world how to genuinely grow in faith.
The program of this special pilgrimage to Fatima opened on the evening of 24 January with a prayer vigil that lasted until midnight. A significant number of young people participated in this service. The next day, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, began with a recitation of the Pauline rosary guided by the Society of St. Paul, Daughters of St. Paul and Pious Disciples in the Apparition Chapel.
Besides the presence of a bishop from Pauls part of the world at the Eucharistic Celebration, a very meaningful and moving moment of the Liturgy occurred when, just before the Offertory Rite, the director of the Sanctuary reminded the faithful of the Church of Portugal that their offerings would be donated to the Bishop of Damascus in imitation of the offerings Paul had collected on his trips for the Church of Jerusalem.
That afternoon, the Daughters of St. Paul collaborated with others in presenting a re-enactment of the Damascus event, which was staged in the new Church of the Trinity, gloriously illuminated by the splendid mosaics of Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik. In spite of the fact that the church can hold 9,000 people, there were not enough seats for everyoneit was a true case of standing room only.
This special initiative, broadcast by Catholic radio station Renascença and followed by many unable to attend the event, was then enriched by the showing of a film based on the documentary Paul: From Tarsus to the World, produced by the Daughters of St. Paul, and by a concert by the Shepherds of Fatima Childrens Choir and the Choir of the Porto Cathedral. The songs alternated with readings from the Letters of St. Paul by two well-known local actors: Ruy de Carvolaho and Paulo Mira Coelho.
At the end of the evening, Fr. Manuel Morujao, sj, the head of the committee that organized the pilgrimage, warmly thanked the Daughters of St. Paul for their contribution to the event and described the Pauline mission in the world of communication very effectively to the people.