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Fátima (Portugal).- Thousands of Catholics flock to the Shrine of Fatima today, on the last day of the last great pilgrimage of the year, marked by an open controversy in Portugal over child abuse within the Catholic Church .
After the traditional night vigil of the 12th, which last night brought together several thousand people, the faithful are advancing today through the esplanade of the sanctuary – about 130 kilometers north of Lisbon – either on foot or on their knees.
The ceremony was led by the President of the Episcopal Conference, José Ornelas, who dismissed his connection to the cover-up of child abuse in the Church.
It is necessary, he affirmed during the mass, “to change mentalities and procedures” in the Church and society so that the weakest are not “forgotten, or worse, abused and exploited”.
On the eve of the pilgrimage, the Independent Commission investigating abuses in the Portuguese Church revealed that it had 424 confirmed testimonies, with hundreds of abusers identified and dozens of them still active.
Justice and the Church must act against pederasty
The theme provided for the pilgrimage. “If it really exists, it must be punished,” said Portuguese pilgrim Antonio Ferreira.
For Ana Martines, “zero tolerance” should apply both to the aggressors and to those who have decided to conceal these cases.
“They are complicit in this type of situation and they have let many situations pass that have not been revealed and people have not been properly punished. A lot of people have suffered and are still suffering because of this stuff,” he says.
Pilgrims with their hands in their pockets
Once the threat of the pandemic is overcome, Fatima returns to her pre-covid level, they point out from the shrine, although worshipers complain that returning to normalcy costs much more.
In local hotels, “the rise in prices has not yet been felt significantly,” the president of the Ourém-Fátima Business Association, Purificação Reis, told EFE.
The CEO of United Hotels of Portugal, which has more than a dozen hotels in Fátima, says occupancy levels vary depending on international markets.
Asians or Brazilians have yet to recover, while Portuguese and Americans are at pre-pandemic levels.
Pilgrims reduce their expenses
“We stayed here and spent the night in the car,” Maria Von Hafe, a Portuguese woman who visited the shrine from Porto on three major pilgrimages this year, told EFE: May, August and October.
“From May to October there was a very sharp increase in fuel, the cost of living, too, restaurants, housing…”, he assures.
Amandio Lima, from the Lisbon metropolitan area, notes less influx than previous times, both because it is a weekday and because of inflation.
“Gasoline and diesel are very expensive, and sleep and all. People try to avoid staying. Before, we spent 40 euros on fuel and now we spend 60 euros and we come back dry,” he told EFE.
The Spaniard Petri Moreno, traveled by bus from Badajoz, to meet her sister Luisa and her cousin Dolores, who opted for the car to reach the sanctuary from Barcelona.
“There are very few planes, the trains are terrible and when you arrive, what do you do? There are very bad combinations, ”laments Dolores.
The cult of Fátima has its origins in 1917, when three Portuguese children -Lucía, Jacinta and Francisco- claimed to have witnessed several apparitions of the Virgin.
Web edited: Javier Agramunt