Cardinal Vincent Nichols has crowned a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the centenary year of her appearance, and reconsecrated England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In a packed Westminster Cathedral, filled to its 3,000 capacity and with large crowds spilling onto the plaza, Cardinal Nichols led the prayer of consecration, saying: “To you and your Immaculate Heart, in this centenary year of the apparitions of Fatima, we re-consecrate ourselves in union not only with the Church, the Mystical Body of your Son, but also with the entire world.”

The cardinal was renewing a consecration made by his predecessor as Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Bernard Griffin, in 1948.

In May 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She told them of a coming upheaval in the world, linked especially to Russia, which would cause terrible suffering. She also reminded the children of the danger of hell, and asked them to pray the rosary and make sacrifices for sinners.

She explained that there would be a great event on October 13. That day, vast crowds gathered, and the “Miracle of the Sun” took place, at which many onlookers saw the sun dance.

Catholics are not obliged to believe in the Fatima revelations, but the Church has officially declared them “worthy of belief ”, and Our Lady of Fatima has a central place in Marian devotion. In his homily, Cardinal Nichols said Catholics must ask themselves: “How well do we express our discipleship of Christ every day? How are we getting on in those two ways of giving time to the Lord and to others: in those areas of prayer and sacrifice? Our response to this challenge can be guided and sustained by what we know of Our Lady of Fatima, and what she has to say to us.”

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