To mark the centenary year of Our Lady's apparitions at Fatima in 1917, the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF) has organised visitations of the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue to the cathedrals of England and Wales, together with the relics of Saints Francisco and Jacinta for veneration.
Westminster Cathedral was the first stop on the itinerary on Saturday 18 February, when Cardinal Nichols received, blessed and crowned the statue, and it will now be the turn of Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral on 6 and 7 October.
The highlight of the visitation will be Holy Mass with a post-communion act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Mass will be preceded by the enthronement and crowning of the National Fatima Statue, and followed by veneration of the relics, along with the enrolment and investiture of the brown scapular. There will also be Fatima talks and devotions over the weekend, including the Rosary.
The dioceses of Cardiff, Southwark, Shrewsbury, Menevia, Nottingham, Plymouth, Arundel and Brighton, Birmingham, Hallam, Portsmouth and Leeds have all received the statue up to now, and the visitations will continue until mid-October.
In his homily at the Westminster Cathedral visitation, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so central to her message, "is a way for us to say 'yes' [like she did] from the depths of our hearts ... which is why today we consecrate afresh ourselves, our lives, our country, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that we can always be saying 'yes' to the Lord, with all our heart, with all our will, from the centre of our being. Only Mary can teach us how to do this."
He also emphasised the importance of the Rosary and of praying it in the family, which he recalled doing as a child.
Internationally, the highlight of the centenary year of Our Lady's apparitions in Fatima from May to October 1917 has been the canonisation on 13 May of Francisco and Jacinta by Pope Francis at the Portuguese shrine. Full details of the Liverpool visitation will be available on http://www.worldfatima-englandwales.org.uk/visitation.html.
Donal Anthony Foley is the Secretary of the WAF England and Wales