By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tIn the teeth of a world inclined to sacrifice unity “on the altar of base egoisms of nation, race, ideology, the group and the individual,” Pope Benedict XVI today proposed Fatima as a counter-sign of the “wondrous maternity of God.”
tThe comments came in the pontiff’s homily this morning for an open-air Mass in the world’s premier Marian shrine, before a vast and tightly-packed crowd estimated at half a million. Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, recalling the reported apparitions of Mary to three shepherd children in this spot between May and October 1917.
tBenedict’s use of feminine imagery was striking, though in context the phrase “maternity of God” appeared to refer to Mary’s role as the Mother of God. Benedict said that Mary testifies to the “sweet joys” of God’s love for humanity.
tThe pope lauded the three young visionaries of Fatima, saying they had “an experience of grace.” At the same time, the pontiff insisted that Christian faith does not depend upon such dramatic confirmation.