Pope reduces waiting period for sainthood cause for Fatima visionary

COIMBRA, Portugal (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the five-year waiting period to start the canonization process for Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.The decision means that the diocesan phase of the sainthood process can begin immediately.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, made the announcement at a Feb. 13 Mass in Coimbra commemorating the third anniversary of Sister Lucia’s death.

The cardinal said Pope Benedict had reduced to three years the waiting period so the Diocese of Coimbra, where Fatima is located, can begin the initial phase of the sainthood investigation. Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, supported by other bishops, had asked for the reduction.

On May 13, 1917, when Sister Lucia was 10 years old, she and her cousins — Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7 — claimed to have seen Mary at Fatima, near their home.

The apparitions continued once a month until October 1917 and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

In 2000 Pope John Paul II beatified Sister Lucia’s cousins, who died as children.

The diocesan phase of the investigation includes gathering and examining Sister Lucia’s writings to see that they are in keeping with the faith and gathering evidence to see if she lived an exemplary Christian life.

Subsequent phases involve the Vatican congregation evaluating evidence that miracles attributed to her intercession occurred. One miracle is needed for her beatification, the step before canonization, and another miracle occurring after her beatification is needed for her to be declared a saint.