The month of May sees Christians the world over commemorate the first of three apparitions of the Holy Virgin to the three children, Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7, in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. The apparitions extended over the period from 13 May to 13 October 1917.
In Egypt, the primary scene of the annual celebration is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima in the eastern Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. The Chaldean Catholic church which has stood there since 1951 has become a landmark of Heliopolis; the area surrounding it is today famously denoted as “St Fatima”.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima in Heliopolis, Cairo, was declared a Minor Basilica on 6 April 1993. On Saturday 13 May 2023, a celebration was held there to commemorate the Fatima apparitions, and to mark 30 years on that declaration.
Broadcasted live on TV, the ceremony was presided over by Fr Paulus Sati, C.SS.R., the Chaldean Patriarchal Administrator of Cairo, together with Archbishop Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thévenin, the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt.
The foundations of Cairo’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima were laid in 1950. Designed after European churches, the exterior of the church is faced in pink brick; its high façade is graced by a large statue of the Holy Virgin blessing passers-by. The Church was consecrated in 1951 as Our Lady of Fatima by the late Patriarchal Vicar Msgr Emmanuel Rassam. In 1993, the church was granted the title of Minor Basilica by the late Pope John Paul II; a title usually given to important churches and shrines. The official document issued by the Vatican was brought over to Cairo by the late Msgr Youssef Sarraf and is kept at the Chaldean bishopric.
At the time of the Fatima apparitions the three visionaries gave a description of the Holy Virgin, and based on that description a statue was made in Portugal of Our Lady of Fatima. Subsequently a few copies were made; one of these copies was sent to Egypt. The statue arrived to Cairo in the 1950s was given an official reception and escorted to the church. There the Bishop installed it on a high pedestal inside a side altar made of wrought iron in front of a splendid, starry-sky background.
The church holds monthly celebrations from 13 May until 13 October every year to mark the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, which lasted during that period in 1917.
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