Thousands in Portugal pray for world without COVID-19

Standing in circles marked to maintain social distancing, Emilia joined about 7,500 other faithful at a massive outdoor venue on Wednesday evening at the Fatima Sanctuary to mark the first of three reported visions of the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady, more than 100 years ago.

Like many others, Emilia came to Fatima with her sister and daughter with one main purpose: to pray for an end to the pandemic still ravaging the world and a return to normality.

"More than ever we must ask Our Lady to help us, to free us from this great pandemic we are experiencing and from the diseases we have," she told Reuters as she waited patiently for the candlelight procession to start, the highlight of the evening.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches the Virgin Mary appeared to three Portuguese children in 1917 in Fatima, which was then an impoverished farming village. It believes she gave the children three messages, the so-called secrets of Fatima.

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