Some evangelicals are using the opportunity to speak with Catholics at the event marking 100 years since the sighting to “support the people going to Fátima in their needs, be they physical, emotional or spiritual,” said António Calaim, pastor and president of the Portuguese Evangelical Alliance.
Calaim explained that hundreds of evangelicals, mostly young believers from several churches, will be engaging in dialogue with pilgrims, tackling topics about God and the Bible, even if they disagree with Catholics about teachings concerning the Virgin Mary.
“These people heading towards Fátima these days deserve our consideration,” the pastor told Portuguese news agency Lusa.
The pastor explained where evangelicals and Catholics disagree:
“We do not agree with the idolatry of Mary, the worship of the saints and images, and the leadership of the Church in the whole world under one man,” he said, referring to the pope.
He added that evangelicals do not believe the apparitions claimed by the shepherds to be a real fact.
Still, Calaim insisted that the point of the engagement will not be to confront Catholics, but “to give a hug and share the Word of God” with the people present there.
BBC News said that more than a million pilgrims are expected to attend the Pope Francis event at Fátima, with many believing that the visions of Mary, the first recounted on May 13, 1917, reveal truth to help mankind.
The Guardian recounted the story behind the Fátima, stating that “the children being canonized, brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who were nine and seven at the time of the apparitions, died of influenza two years later.”
“Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who became the main raconteur of their tale, is on track for beatification, the first step toward becoming a saint. Her case couldn’t begin until after her death in 2005,” it added.
The children, who were grazing sheep at the time, claimed to have seen half a dozen visions of the Virgin Mary, in which she revealed to them “apocalyptic messages foreshadowing the second world war, hell, the rise and fall of communism and the death of a pope.”
The pontiff sent a message to Portuguese Catholics, asking them to “whisper into the ears of each one of them, and assure them that her Immaculate Heart is a refuge and a path leading them to God.”
Francis noted that the logo of the event is “with Mary, I come as pilgrim in hope and in peace.”
With terror concerns high in Europe following a number of Islamic radical attacks in recent years, BBC noted that Portugal has deployed 6,000 police and emergency workers at the site, and have erected concrete blocks on approach roads to stop any “ramming” attacks with a vehicle.