Pope Francis added two Portuguese shepherd children to the roster of Catholic saints Saturday, honoring young siblings whose reported visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago turned the Portuguese farm town of Fatima into one of the world's most important Catholic shrines. Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto saints at the start of a mass marking the centenary of their visions, the AP reports. Francisco and Jacinta, aged 9 and 7, and their 10-year-old cousin, Lucia, reported that on March 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary made the first of a half-dozen appearances to them here while they grazed their sheep in quiet prayer, reciting rosaries before a statue of the Madonna.
They said she confided in them three secrets—foretelling apocalyptic visions of hell, war, communism, and the death of a pope—and urged them to pray for peace and a conversion away from sin. "Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures," Francis said in his homily, with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims present. The Martos are now the youngest-ever saints who didn't die as martyrs. The siblings died during Europe's Spanish flu pandemic two years after the visions. Lucia is on track for possible beatification, but the process couldn't start until after her 2005 death. (The parents of a Brazilian boy say a miracle happened after they prayed to the Martos.)