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Portugal presents the Vatican evidence for Portugal nun's beatification

LISBON, Portugal -- Catholic Church officials in Portugal said Monday they have assembled more than 15,000 pages of testimony and documentation to support the proposed beatification of Sister Lucia, one of three shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in the town of Fatima 100 years ago.

The officials said the case for Sister Lucia’s beatification -- the first step toward canonization as a saint -- will be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in line with church procedure.

The documentation was presented at a church ceremony in the convent in Coimbra, 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Lisbon, where Sister Lucia lived from 1948 until her death at age 97 in 2005.

Her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who also said they witnessed the apparitions, died at ages 9 and 11 of pneumonia. They were beatified in 2000.

The Catholic bishop of Coimbra, Virgilio Antunes, said the documentation on Sister Lucia took eight years to compile and includes information from 11,000 letters she wrote as well as some 61 witness statements.

If the Vatican congregation’s experts agree a candidate for beatification lived a virtuous life, the case is forwarded to the pope, who signs a decree attesting to the candidate’s virtues.

Pope Francis is to visit Fatima, a small farming town dominated by the Catholic shrine erected to honor the apparitions, on May 12-13 for the pilgrimage marking their centenary. He will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

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