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The Latest: Pope Francis says mercy comes before judgment

Posted May 12

— The Latest on Pope Francis' trip to Fatima shrine in Portugal (all times local):

10:10 p.m.

Pope Francis says Catholic leaders do a "great injustice" when they say God judges sinners when in fact he forgives sinners with his mercy.

At an evening prayer service Friday in Fatima, Portugal, Francis said: "Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God's judgment will always be rendered in light of his mercy."

Francis has riled the more doctrinaire wing of the church with his mercy-over-morals priorities, particularly after the last two doctrine-minded papacies. He recently concluded an entire Holy Year on trying to show the more merciful side of the church.

Francis delivered the mercy-trumps-judgment message on the first day of a two-day visit to the shrine at Fatima, where three shepherd children reported having visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago. Francis will declare two of the children saints on Saturday, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.

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9:45 p.m.

Pope Francis has attended the traditional Blessing of the Candles at the Fatima shrine, a world-famous pilgrimage site in Portugal which the pontiff is visiting for less than 24 hours.

Francis lit a candle in the ceremony at the shrine's Chapel of the Apparitions, named for the "visions" of the Virgin Mary reported by three local shepherd children 100 years ago. Francis will make two of them saints on Saturday.

The candlelight night-time Mass is traditionally popular with pilgrims. Behind the pope as he prayed were thousands of points of light as people held up candles in the shrine's vast, dark square.

There was no official crowd estimate, but authorities said they were expecting 1 million people.

After nightfall, the crowds remained as compact as they had been since early morning. The pontiff arrived in the rural town mid-afternoon Friday.

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7 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Catholics to "tear down all walls" and go to the peripheries to spread peace and justice.

Francis made the appeal Friday as he arrived at the Portuguese shrine in Fatima, one of the most important Catholic sanctuaries in the world.

Francis is in Fatima to mark the anniversary of the "visions" of the Virgin Mary reported by three shepherd children 100 years ago.

During an evening prayer, Francis told the tens of thousands of pilgrims: "We will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go out to every periphery, to make known God's justice and peace."

He spoke after spending several minutes in silent prayer before the statue of the Madonna at the chapel built in Fatima at the site of the apparitions.

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6:40 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at the shrine in Fatima to an ecstatic welcome from the huge crowds waiting in the pilgrimage site's vast square.

The basilica's bells rang out as the pontiff passed in his popemobile through a sea of people waving flags from dozens of countries.

The crowd fell silent as Francis stood and prayed at the Chapel of the Apparitions, dedicated to the three local shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them here 100 years ago. He will make two of them saints at a Mass on Saturday.

After arriving in Portugal at a military air base, the pope traveled 10 minutes by helicopter to Fatima, twice circling the shrine before landing as crowds waved.

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5:20 p.m.

Crowds of well-wishers in Portugal hoping to see Pope Francis have lined up along the barbed-wire fence surrounding the military air base where he landed.

In nearby Fatima, the pontiff's destination, throngs of people in the shrine's huge square erupted in cheers when TV screens showed him stepping off the plane. There was no official crowd estimate, but authorities have said they are expecting 1 million to come for the centenary of the Fatima apparitions when three shepherd children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them.

A small group of schoolchildren serenaded Francis on the tarmac. The pope rode in an electric golf cart to the air base's tiny chapel. He stopped to greet an elderly woman in a wheelchair, kissed children on the head and embraced a handicapped man.

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4:15 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Portugal where he is to visit the shrine at Fatima, one of the world's most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites.

Two Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jets escorted the pope's plane as it came in to land at the Monte Real Portuguese Air Force base, which lies amid pine forests a short distance from the rural town of Fatima. A guard of honor has lined up on the runway next to the plane.

The pontiff's first official event Friday is a brief private meeting with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at the air base.

Fatima is famous for being the place where three Portuguese shepherd children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in 1917. The pope will make two of them saints on Saturday.

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4:10 p.m.

Officials at the Catholic shrine in Fatima, Portugal say about 45,000 pilgrims are making their way on foot to the town for Pope Francis's visit, which is expected to draw 1 million people.

The pilgrims traditionally walk there as an expression of thanks to Our Lady of Fatima for helping them, or to pray to her for help. Others toss wax limbs into a fire beside the shrine's chapel as they say a prayer for healing.

Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws huge numbers of visitors from around the world — a total of around 6 million each year on average, local officials estimate.

The shrine was built where three shepherd children said 100 years ago that the Virgin Mary appeared to them in "visions." The pontiff, who arrives Friday, is to canonize two of the children on Saturday before leaving Portugal.

Open-air Masses are held in the shrine's vast square, in front of its basilica. The shrine's Church of the Holy Trinity, dedicated in 2007, can seat 8,633 people, officials say.

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4 p.m.

Portuguese authorities have mounted a huge security operation for Pope Francis's visit to the shrine at Fatima, which is 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of the capital Lisbon.

Officials say around 3,000 police and other security personnel are involved.

Before the pontiff's scheduled arrival on Friday afternoon, Portugal restored mandatory identity checks and vehicle inspections at its borders for European Union citizens.

Drones are banned over the shrine during the pontiff's visit of just under 24 hours. Police have placed concrete blocks on roads leading into the shrine to prevent truck attacks.

Authorities are expecting some 1 million people to converge on the small town where three shepherd children claimed in 1917 that the Virgin Mary appeared to them. Pope Francis will make two of the children saints on Saturday.

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3 p.m.

Tens of thousands of people are gathering in the small town of Fatima in Portugal to see Pope Francis, who is due to arrive for a visit.

Officials say they expect around 1 million people to converge on the rural town, which hosts one of the world's most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites. Hotels and apartments were sold out months ago.

One hundred years ago, three Portuguese shepherd children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in Fatima, and the pontiff is visiting the shrine on the centenary of the "visions."

Security is tight for the pope's scheduled arrival at 4:20 p.m. (1520 GMT) Friday afternoon.

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis is to hold a Mass to make two of the shepherd children saints.

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9:15 a.m.

Pope Francis and pilgrims from around the world are flocking to a Catholic shrine town in Portugal to honor two poor, illiterate shepherd children whose visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago marked one of the most important events of the 20th-century Catholic Church.

Francis departed from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport on Friday afternoon to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions and canonize the children. He is hoping the message of peace that they reported 100 years ago, when Europe was in the throes of World War I, will resonate with the Catholic faithful today.

Thousands of pilgrims, waving flags from as far as Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba, braved a steady cold rain Friday as they waited for him, many spending the night outdoors. Over the past several days, church groups, families and individuals have made their way to Fatima, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon.

Carrying candles, rosaries and roses, they have gone to the statue dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima or tossed wax body parts — ears, hearts, limbs — into a huge fire to pray for healing.

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