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Pope Benedict begins pilgrimage to Fatima

Catholic World News - May 11, 2010

"I come as a pilgrim to Our Lady of Fatima," Pope Benedict XVI announced as he arrived in Portugal on May 11.

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, president of the Republic of Portugal, and Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, the Patriarch of Lisbon, lead the greeting party for the Pontiff at the airport welcoming ceremony.

In his first public remarks the Pope emphasized the strong historic ties between Portugal and the Holy See, recalling how Pope Pius II had refered to the nation as "most faithful." He stressed that a deep commitment to the faith is perfectly compatible with a secular state. The Catholic Church seeks no special privileges from the government, the Pope said, but asks only for a hearing: "Situated within history, the Church is open to cooperating with anyone who does not marginalize or reduce to the private sphere the essential consideration of the human meaning of life."

Referring to the miracles of Fatima, the Pope observed that the Church did not create the faith that draws people to the Marian shrine. Rather, he said, the Church responds to the phenomenon that occurred "when heaven itself was opened over Portugal, like a window of hope that God opens when mans closes the door."

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