By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tAs part of a Vatican-decreed “Year for Priests,” Pope Benedict XVI formally consecrated the roughly 400,000 Catholic priests of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, during a ceremony in the famous Marian shrine of Fatima, Portugal.
tBenedict XVI arrived in Fatima late this afternoon, making his first stop at an outdoor shrine where the statue of Our Lady of Fatima is kept under glass. Benedict recited a prayer, among other things thanking Mary for interceding on May 13, 1981 – the feast of Our Lady of Fatima – to save Pope John Paul II’s life after the assassination attempt that day in St. Peter’s Square. Benedict recalled that one year later, John Paul traveled to Fatima to place the bullet doctors removed from his body in the crown on the statue.
“It is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the ‘bullet’ of our anxieties and sufferings,” the pope said.
tLater, Benedict presided over a vespers service in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima, formally consecrating the world’s priests to Mary’s care.