Bishop Edgar da Cunha to preside over Fátima pilgrimage in August
FALL RIVER – The Bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, Edgar Moreira da Cunha, plans to simultaneously convey a message of hope and issue a challenge to the faithful around the world when he presides over this year’s international pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fátima in Portugal.
“I want to give people a sense of hope in the Church, through the connection with the Blessed Mother…that there is a sense of hope for our world, for our Church,” said the bishop at O Jornal. “I want to encourage them, support them and also challenge them to live and practice their faith wherever they are.”
The annual celebration takes place on August 12 and 13 and includes the National Pilgrimage of Migrants and Refugees, which attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world, many of whom live in the Portuguese diaspora.
“I want to encourage people to continue practicing and witnessing their faith to the rest of society, which is so necessary,” the Bishop said. “I hope people can resonate with that.”
Special pilgrimages take place to Fátima from May to October, on the 12th and 13th of each month, to commemorate the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children.
In August, the holiday is always dedicated to immigrants and refugees, as it is traditionally the month when Europeans take their holidays and many of them visit their countries of origin.
The 2019 international pilgrimage – the last before the coronavirus pandemic upended the annual event – drew around 200,000 people for the May 13 ceremony and 250,000 for the May 12 candlelight procession.
Last year, the celebration was limited to 15,000 pilgrims. This year there is no capacity limit.
Bishop da Cunha said he was delighted to celebrate with such a large crowd of devotees, who share the same devotion and beliefs.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I believe we’re going to have a huge crowd because people haven’t been in two years. So everyone is looking forward to participating and being there and maybe also reconnecting with family. I have probably never celebrated Mass in front of so many people.
Bishop da Cunha was initially invited to preside over the 2020 international pilgrimage, which was canceled due to the pandemic. Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place last year, his participation was postponed to this year.
Born in Nova Fátima, Bahia, Brazil, Bishop da Cunha said it will be his second time visiting the Fátima Shrine, but it will be his first as the main celebrant.
As head of the Diocese of Fall River since September 24, 2014, Bishop da Cunha stressed that there is a “sense of hope and joy” in being part of such an experience that “brings so many [together] pray and show their love for God and the Blessed Mother.
The opening ceremony of the pilgrimage for migrants and refugees takes place on August 12 and usually begins around 6:30 p.m. at the Capelinha, or the Chapel of the Apparitions. Later there is a recitation of the rosary, followed by a candlelight procession and a vigil mass.
The International Mass usually begins at 10 a.m. on August 13 and includes the traditional blessing of the sick and the offering of wheat by pilgrims at the time of the delivery of gifts.
“I ask our people to join us in prayer during these days and that I may be an instrument of God to touch the hearts and minds of the people who are there so that they may be encouraged in their faith and challenged. in their testimony,” Bishop da Cunha said.
It is not the first time that he has been invited to preside over a major religious festival in Portugal.
In 2017 he traveled to the Azores to participate in the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres in Ponta Delgada, Azores, and be the main celebrant and homilist of the solemn Eucharist of the feast and participate in the Great Procession.
Lurdes C. da Silva can be contacted at [email protected] To read more stories about the Portuguese-speaking community, in English and Portuguese, please visit ojornal.com.