COIMBRA, Portugal (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the five-year waiting period to start the canonisation 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.
Head of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins made the announcement at a February 13 Mass in Coimbra commemorating the third anniversary of Sr 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 Sr 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 Sr Lucia’s cousins, who died as children.
One miracle is needed for Lucia’s beatification, the step before canonisation, and another miracle occurring after her beatification is needed for her to be declared a saint.