Fatima (Portugal): Tens of thousands of
pilgrims flocked to one of Christianity`s most popular shrines
Wednesday to hail Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives in Fatima
for the highlight of his visit to Portugal.
"The emotion is building up and I am sure tears will fall
when I see the pope arrive," said Caridade, a Haitian
cosmetics seller who was part of a group of 20 pilgrims who
travelled from New York.
The pope was scheduled to land here in the late afternoon
and immediately go to pray at the statue of Our Lady of the
Rosary in the Chapel of Apparitions.
The Chapel is built on the site where three shepherd
children reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917.
While the pope will travel by helicopter, Church
authorities say some 40,000 pilgrims are expected to arrive in
Fatima by foot from across Portugal.
Many will cover the last few hundred metres (yards) of
their journey on their knees in gratitude for favours they
believe were granted them by the Virgin.
"I have done this pilgrimage for 22 years because my
daughter was at the doors of death and Our Lady granted me the
miracle of saving her," said Maria de Fatima, a 47-year-old
florist who trudged here from Castelo de Paiva, about
220 kilometres (135 miles) away.
Masses were celebrated today at the Little Chapel of
Apparitions -- built on the site where the children say they
saw the Virgin -- in Vietnamese, German, Portuguese, Italian,
English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Polish.