FATIMA, Portugal — Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha presided over this year’s International Pilgrimage at the Sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal on August 12 through 14. The bishop had been scheduled to preside over the same pilgrimage in 2020, but it was cancelled because of the  pandemic. This event is also known as the “Emigrants” Pilgrimage.

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., incenses the famed International Statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the recent International Pilgrimage at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal. (Photo from the Shrine of Fatima Facebook page)

The Sanctuary’s website (fatima.pt) gave extensive coverage of the Mass and Bishop da Cunha’s homily. It wrote, “The Bishop of Fall River is a native of the state of Bahia, Brazil, and was the first U.S. prelate born in Brazil. At the moment, he presides over one of the most important and significant Portuguese communities in the United States, where a large Azorean community, natural or descendants of the Azores, particularly from São Miguel, lives and is very devoted to the Divine Espírito Santo.”

On August 12 Bishop da Cunha led an opening prayer service that included a procession and a blessing of pilgrims with lighted candles.

On August 13, Bishop da Cunha celebrated Mass outside the Shrine Basilica. Tens of thousands of pilgrims participated in both events.

Bishop da Cunha was invited to lead these liturgies that are part of the Pilgrimage of Migrant and Refugees that takes place at the Shrine annually, but were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

From May to October, on the 12th and 13th of each month, special pilgrimages take place in Fatima to commemorate the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children. Each August, the celebration is focused on immigrants and refugees.

In his homily at the Mass, given in Portuguese, Bishop da Cunha said, “Take God out of the world and you will see what will become of man. Even though we are surrounded by evil and sin, we walk guided by the light of faith and hope. Let us not be intimidated by the prophets of evil, by those who want to spread doubt, terror, hatred, selfishness, and darkness.”

He spoke about “a world torn apart by war, injustice, violence, lack of respect for life and the dignity of the human person; Christians being persecuted for the simple fact that they are Christians; governments and political systems that want to eliminate the values of our faith.

“We will find many who want to put out the fire. In any group, there are always those who light the fire and those who put out the fire. Never give up on continuing to light the fire. We must keep alive the flame of faith and the fire of the Holy Spirit.”

In a message directed to families, Bishop da Cunha said, “Do not let yourselves be disproportionately influenced by Social Networks, the Internet, by friends. Life is more than smartphones, computers, tablets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik-Tok. Listen to your parents, grandparents and teachers. Do not think that God, religion, sacraments, church and prayer are things of the past and only for old people.

“I know you want to be happy in this life. Happiness consists in conforming our lives to God’s plan for us. Therefore, we need to find out what God wants from us.”

The Shrine website reported that the bishop “presented to the pilgrims the greetings, prayers, faith and devotion of so many Portuguese parishioners and descendants of Portuguese immigrants in the diocese in Massachusetts.

The Rector of the Shrine thanked Bishop da Cunha, at the end of the celebration, ensuring him of the prayers of those present for his ministry.

A cardinal, four bishops, 67 priests as well as countless members of the Portuguese diaspora attended the Mass.

Reports taken from the Shrine of Fatima website, fatima.pt, and the Diocese of Fall River website, fallriverdiocese.org.