Fatima beatifications - Papal visit and London celebrations

 London's Portuguese community are gearing up for a great festivity this weekend, when Pope John Paul II beatifies the two Fatima visionaries, Jacinta and Francisco Marto. On Sunday 14 May, at 9am, a procession carrying a statue of Our Lady of Fatima will set off from Our Lady of Hal's in Camden Town, north London. A special Portuguese Mass is being celebrated at the church at 5pm. Just last week a huge party was held in the parish to mark the 50th anniversary of the Portuguese chaplain, Fr Jose Vaz Pinto. John Paul II will visit Portugal from 12-13 May for the beatification ceremonies. While two of the little shepherds, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, died young, the third, Lucia, still lives in a convent. The papal trip was confirmed by the Vatican yesterday (8 May), with the publication of the official program. The Pontiff will arrive in Portugal on 12 May at 6 pm and will have a private meeting with the president of the country at the Portela Airport. He will then travel to Fatima by helicopter, where he will land in the municipal stadium at 7.45 pm and go in the "popemobile" directly to the Chapel of the Apparitions, where he will spend some time in prayer. The Pope will spend the night in one of the Shrine's retreat houses; he is not expected to take part in the torchlight procession that night. The next day, John Paul II will return early in the morning to the Chapel of the Apparitions and the Basilica for additional time in prayer. At this point, he will meet Sister Lucia, who is a contemplative nun in Coimbra. The little shepherds' beatification will take place in the plaza of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Cova de Iria. The Pope will return to Rome that afternoon, after the farewell ceremonies. According to the Vatican agency "Fides", when presenting the papal program for Fatima, Bishop Serafim Ferreira said that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will go to Fatima that weekend.

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