FATIMA, Portugal, May 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The rector of Portugal’s Fatima Shrine, Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, is again refusing permission to members of the National Pro-life Referendum Committee to collect signatures favoring a national vote on the issue of abortion.
Since 2007, abortion has been legal in Portugal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, and is financed by the government at taxpayer’s expense.
In a recent e-mail to Luis Botelho, leader of the Committee and president of Portugal Pro Vida, Cabceinhas writes that “the Fatima Shrine maintains the same prohibition that was communicated previously,” in 2012, when the Committee first asked for permission to collect the signatures.
Rejecting arguments that the Shrine is violating Portuguese law, Cabecinhas argues that “it is our understanding that the Shrine can prohibit the intended action. Among other reasons, it should be noted that the proposed activity could conflict with the purpose of the Shrine, which is for strictly religious purposes.”
Cabecinhas denies that he is seeking to “prohibit, impede, or create difficulties for the exercise of the right of petition,” but expresses his concern that “it is still our conviction allowing an exception in this matter would create a precedent that would bring about a great profusion of requests in the future, without any possibility of accommodation on the part of the Shrine.”
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The Fatima Shrine is a church and pilgrimage site constructed in honor of the Virgin Mary following a series of appearances to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. According to Lucia Santos, the oldest of the three, the Virgin Mary denounced the “errors of Russia,” which was then under communism, warned of new immoral fashions that would offend God, and urged acts of penance in devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
In the decades following the apparitions, which ended with the sun “dancing in the sky” according to the secular media as well as thousands of eye witnesses, the local diocese approved the apparitions as “worthy of belief,” and the Catholic Church created an annual optional feast day for Our Lady of Fatima in its liturgical calendar.
In the year 2000, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, authorized by Pope John Paul II, revealed a famous “third secret” purportedly given to Lucia Santos by the Virgin Mary, which had been known only to the popes for several decades, which appeared to predict the assassination attempt made against Pope John Paul II on the feast day of the apparitions: May 13, 1981.
Botelho expressed disappointment at the decision, and says that he will appeal to the Vatican if necessary, as well as seek remedies with the Portuguese government.
“We would like to see the Fatima shrine become a place that is consecrated to the defense of the cause of Life, and for the rector to commit himself to the cause, without fear of losing the faithful, as well as income for the Sanctuary,” Botelho told LifeSiteNews.com.
“If the current rector turns out not to be willing to change his position by his own free will, we think that the Vatican will be able to do something,” added Botelho “What cannot continue, in our opinion, is a continuation of the scandal of the defenders of the cause of Life, of Family, of maternity, being badly received in a place that honors Mary, the Mother of God.”
Botelho expressed his hope that Cabecinhas would “follow the example of Pope Francis,” who expressed strong pro-life sentiments, and invite “Catholics to sign our petitions: a national one in favor of a referendum, and a European one in favor of the recognition of the juridical status of the embryo as a person.”
Such referenda would “put the discussion of the issue of abortion back on the table.”
Dom Rino Passigato
Apostolic Nuncio in Portugal
Av. Luís Bivar, 18
Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas
Rector, Fatima Shrine