Pope Francis said that Our Lady of Fatima did not appear “so that we could see her”, but as a warning against a “godless” way of life, as he canonised two of the seers last Saturday.

Standing before the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Pope Francis said: “We declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto as saints.”

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims broke out in applause before he finished speaking.

The relics of the young shepherd children, encased in two thin golden crosses, were placed in front of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the “lady dressed in white”, as the siblings and their cousin described her.

The Marian apparitions began on May 13, 1917, when nine-year-old Francisco and seven-year-old Jacinta, along with their 10-year-old cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until October 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Church.

After contracting influenza, Francisco died on April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to the illness on February 20, 1920, aged nine. The children, beatified by St John Paul II in 2000, are now the youngest non-martyrs to be declared saints.

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