By Courtney Mares
Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood cause of Sister Lucia dos Santos, the eldest child to witness the Fatima apparitions.
In a decree signed on June 22, the pope recognized Lucia’s heroic virtue and declared her “venerable.” The Church will now need to approve a miracle attributed to her intercession before she can be beatified.
Pope Francis already canonized the two other Fatima visionaries, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, in 2017. The two shepherd children, who died at 10 and 11 respectively, are the youngest non-martyr saints in the Church’s history.
Lucia, who was 10 years old at the time of the 1917 Marian apparitions, outlived the other visionaries by decades, surviving until age 97.
She spent the final 50 years of her life in a Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal. As the only Fatima visionary who spoke with the Virgin Mary during the series of apparitions, her written memoirs have provided an important account of the Fatima message.
Lucia’s canonization cause opened in 2008, three years after her death, after Benedict XVI granted a dispensation for the usually required five-year waiting period. More than 15,000 letters, testimonies, and other documents were collected during the diocesan phase of her cause, which concluded in 2017.
Pope Francis is planning to visit Fatima this summer when he travels to Portugal for World Youth Day. The pope will spend the morning of Aug. 5 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, about 75 miles northeast of Lisbon, where he will pray the rosary with sick young adults in the Marian shrine’s Chapel of Apparitions.
In the decree issued by the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis approved the martyrdom of Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez and 19 companions killed “in hatred of the faith” during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
The pope also recognized the heroic virtue of four other Servants of God, including Mother Mary Lange (1789–1882), who immigrated to the United States from Cuba and founded the first African American religious congregation.
With the decree, Brazilian Archbishop Antônio de Almeida Lustosa (1886–1974), Italian Franciscan Father Antonio Pagani (1526–1589), and Italian Sister Anna Cantalupo (1888–1983) were all declared venerable.