VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has put Sister Lucia, the last of three shepherd children who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary during apparitions in 1917 in Fatima, on a fast-track to possible sainthood, the Vatican said Wednesday.
 
The customary waiting period before beginning the process that can lead to sainthood is five years after a person’s death.
 
The case of Sister Lucia, who died in 2005 at age 97, was granted the same waiver as was given in the cases of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.
 
The Vatican said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, made the announcement during a Wednesday evening Mass at the cathedral in Coimbra, Portugal, marking the third anniversary of Lucia’s death.
 
Sister Lucia, whose birth name was Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, was buried at the Carmelite convent where she had lived since 1948. Her body was later placed in a tomb at the Fatima shrine’s basilica alongside her cousins Jacinta and Francisco. The shrine is visited by millions of pilgrims each year.
 
Lucia and her cousins said the Virgin Mary appeared to them on the 13th day of each month and predicted events, such as world wars, the reemergence of Christianity in Russia and one that Church officials say foretold the 1981 attempted assassination of John Paul.
 
John Paul said the Virgin of Fatima saved his life after he was shot by a Turkish gunman in St. Peter’s Square in 1981. The attack, on May 13, coincided with the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, and John Paul credited the Virgin’s intercession for his survival.
 
In 2000, he visited the town of Fatima, Portugal to beatify Jacinta and Francisco.
 
The Vatican’s saint-making procedures require that a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession be confirmed before beatification, the last step before possible sainthood. A second miracle is necessary for canonization.
 
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