VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is making five more child saints: Two Portuguese shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in Fatima 100 years ago, and three Mexican adolescents who were killed for their Catholic faith in the 16th century.
Francis signed the decrees Thursday, raising the likelihood that he might canonize the Portuguese siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto during his upcoming trip to the Fatima shrine.
In the case of the Mexicans, Francis declared the three Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala worthy of sainthood without having a miracle attributed to their intercession, once again sidestepping the Vatican’s typical saint-making process.
The boys, Cristobal, Antonio and Juan, were converted to Catholicism by missionaries in the early 1500s and were killed by their countrymen. St. John Paul II beatified them in 1990 during his second visit to Mexico.
Francis followed the rules in approving a miracle for the Marto siblings, who died at age 9 and 11 of pneumonia. Church officials declined to detail the miracle in question other than to say it involved the medically inexplicable cure of a Brazilian child.
No date was set for either canonization ceremony, but it’s possible that Francis will declare the Marto siblings saints during his May 12-13 visit to Fatima, adding another reason for celebration at the shrine as it marks the centennial anniversary of the apparitions.
Just last month, Portuguese church officials wrapped up their saint-making investigation into the Martos’ cousin, Sister Lucia, the third shepherd child who reported having visions of Mary. The case now goes to the Vatican’s saint-making office, which must decide on whether to declare Sister Lucia lived a life of heroic virtue, the first step in the canonization process.
Francis has followed in his predecessors’ footsteps by declaring hundreds of saints and blessed. He has been particularly fond of holding up martyrs and missionaries as models for today’s faithful.