A man reaches to touch Pope Francis after the pope blessed the sick with the Eucharist at the conclusion of the canonization Mass of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima seers, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal May 13. The Mass marked the 100th anniversary of the Fatima Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is not shy about showing his love for Mary in public and, like many Latin American bishops, he strongly has resisted attempts to dismiss as superstitious or "simple," in a negative sense, popular devotion to the mother of God.
The pope's devotion and his respect for those who turn to Mary in their hour of need was on display May 12-13 when he and some 500,000 people gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
Canonizing two of the illiterate shepherd children to whom Mary appeared in 1917, Pope Francis made it clear he sees no need for people to be "sophisticated" in explaining their devotion.
But he also made it clear that, as in any area of faith and spirituality, there is room in their understanding of Mary for people to grow as Catholics and Christians.
Calling himself a pilgrim with the pilgrims, Pope Francis asked "which Mary" did the crowds come to honor? The Mary who is "a teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the 'narrow way' of the cross by giving us an example, or a lady 'unapproachable' and impossible to imitate?"
For the pilgrims, he asked, is she "a woman 'blessed because she believed' always and everywhere in God's words or a 'plaster statue' from whom we beg favors at little cost?"