Updated: March 15, 2021 07:48 AM GMT
Cardinal Marto asked Catholics to spiritually conduct the eight-day pilgrimage that started on March 14.
Cardinal Marto, whose diocesean area covers the pilgrim site, asked Catholics to spiritually conduct the eight-day pilgrimage that started on March 14.
Throughout the year thousands of Catholics travel to Fatima in Portugal, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
The eight-day pilgrimage attracts crowds from around the globe but the nature of the pilgrimage was changed to safeguard the common good of people’s health, Cardinal Marto said in a pastoral letter.
The cardinal promised to pray in solitude at the shrine to end the "scourge of the pandemic," reported Catholic News Agency.
On the last day on March 21, "I will go to the Fatima Shrine, holding you all in my heart, and there I will pray for you and for the end of the scourge of the pandemic, entrusting us all to the protection of the Mother of Heaven and our patroness.”
The diocese will make videos available on its social media feeds to help the faithful make the virtual pilgrimage.
The annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady in Cova da Iria in Fatima runs from May 13 to October, the period when six Marian apparitions occurred a century ago.
Father Carlos Cabecinhas, rector of the shrine, has invited the faithful to join in a "pilgrimage of the heart" whose path will not be physical "but interior".Normal Masses with the physical participation of the faithful are expected to begin in Portugal from May 30.
The Fatima shrine is resuming its activities gradually and the museum will be reopened on May 19.
Health protocols such as the use of masks, physical distancing and sanitation of hands and environments are in force in Portugal.