Fátima in the New State

Patricia Vieira. Portuguese Film, 1930-1960: The Staging of the New State Regime, Bloomsbury Academic (2013), excerpt:

Chapter 4: The Miracle of Salazarism: Fátima, Land of Faith

Fátima in the New State

"The consolidation of Fátima as the central religious phenomenon of Portuguese Catholicism, as well as the gradual international recognition of the sanctuary, coincided with the institutionalization of the New State and with Salazar’s rise to power. Although the alleged apparitions that started the cult of Fátima took place between 13 May and 13 October 1917, the Portuguese Church did not grant an official blessing to the marian devotion of the Cova da Iria until after then end of the First Republic. With the publication of the Pastoral Letter on the Cult of Our Lady of Fátima (Carta Pastoral Sobre of Culto de Nossa Senhora de Fátima) in 1930, the Church declared that the visions of the three children Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco were credible and granted permission to worship the Virgin at Fátima. Between the 1930s and the 1950s the number of believers visiting the sanctuary grew exponentially, quickly making Fátima the country’s most visited pilgrimage site, a situation that prompted the state to draft an urban development plan for the area. This plan materialized in 1944 under the direction of Cottinelli Telmo, an architect who had previously headed other projects of the regime, such as the 1940 Exhibition of the Portuguese World. The internationalization of Fátima depended on the Vatican’s recognition of the alleged miracles, a process that was initiated during the papcy of Pius XI (1922-39) and completed by Pius II (1939-58), who was nicknamed “Fátima’s Pope” for his support of the Portuguese sanctuary.

The parallel development of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima and of the New State was not just a historical accident. In fact, while the governments of the First Republic, with the exception of the Sidonist interregnum (1917-18), either implicitly or explicitly and militantly opposed the worship of the Virgin, Salazarism encouraged the expansion of the sanctuary. In the first decades of his rule, Salazar’s position in relation to religion dovetailed with the essential principles of his regime, which was marked by a balance between positivist rationalism and a belief in unquestionable dogmas. The unending dispute between reason and faith, which had been at the root of the controversy that surrounded the apparitions of the Virgin during the First Republic, was one of the political paradoxes that Salazar sought to resolve both in his political practice and in his public speeches."