Most people don’t know this amazing fact:
The enemies of the Church, on March 6, 1922, put a powerful bomb at the little, original Fatima chapel at Cova da Iria, that blew the place to bits.
On May 13, as a response, a pilgrimage of reparation took place with the presence of over 60,000 people from all regions of Portugal. In December, reconstruction of the chapel started.
Thus, in spite of the violence of the adversaries, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima was victoriously gaining ground.
A very important development took place when Pope Pius XI, receiving the students of the Portuguese College in Rome on January 9, 1929, gave each one of them two holy cards of Our Lady of Fatima: one for them, the other to be sent to their families.
In October 1929, at the request of that College’s president, the Pope himself blessed a statue of Our Lady of Fatima sculpted by Portuguese artist José Tedim for the College’s chapel.
These events are related in the Report of the Canonical Commission of the Diocese of Leiria, which concluded that the apparitions were authentic.
Finally, on October 13, 1930, Bishop José Alves Correia da Silva published a pastoral letter approving devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Previously, in 1928, he had already approved construction of the Basilica of Fatima, for which he had purchased the plots at Cova da Iria.
In a short time the devotion spread throughout the world; and that little corner of Portugal, hidden in the Serra do Aire, became one of the world’s premier centers of Catholic pilgrimage.
Some Background History: The Hostile Campaign Continues
As usual, when liberals run out of arguments, all that’s left is violence. In the name of freedom naturally. That way, they reveal the “thoughts of their hearts.”
So it was that a violent campaign against Fatima was unleashed in the anticlerical press everywhere, promoted by the “partisans of progress and liberty.”
On October 23, as reported by the daily Diário de Notícias, a band of liberals from Vila Nova de Ourém went to Cova da Iria in the still of the night and hacked down the tree of the apparitions. When Lucia heard about it she ran to the place and, much to her joy, she saw they had cut down the wrong tree, one close to the holm oak on which Our Lady had landed. The latter, which had been reduced to a trunk because the faithful had taken all its branches as relics, remained standing there.
Taking to Santarém the bits and pieces of the little tree and the adornments the faithful had placed in the area, the anticlericals began to make shameful parodies of it but had to stop owing to the general indignation of the people, including non-churchgoers.
The Apparitions Cease, Pilgrimages Increase
When the apparitions ceased, pilgrimages to the place continued. That caused a great financial loss for Lucia’s family, as it was no longer possible to plant anything in the whole area of Cova da Iria.
The faithful would leave offers in species and in money, collected by Maria Carreira, the zealous devotee of the apparitions, to fulfill the Blessed Mother’s request to have a chapel built there in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary. For that reason, the good lady became known as “Maria da Capelinha” or “Mary of the Little Chapel.”
In 1919, with the authorization of Lucia’s mother and the discreet acquiescence of the parish priest of Fatima, who could not commit himself until the Religious Authority made a pronouncement on the matter, the construction of the little chapel started.
Restoration of the Diocese of Leiria
The diocese of Leiria, to which the village belonged, had been created in the 16th century and was suppressed at the end of the 19th century. That placed Fatima under the jurisdiction of the faraway Patriarchate of Lisbon.
In January 1918, the Holy See restored the diocese but the new bishop, Dom José Alves Correia da Silva, was appointed only in 1920.