The thirteenth of May marks the Roman Catholic feast of Our Lady of Fatima and is the day in 1917 when the Virgin Mary made the first of her six appearances to three children in a remote village north of Lisbon near Fátima. Widely commemorated especially by churches in the Portuguese tradition, the feast is also one in which we see the rich Portuguese heritage of Macau being celebrated. Although followers of a religion introduced by its former masters number only 5% of the total population in the one-time Portuguese territory, it is very much one which cannot escape the eye in Macau, with not just its many beautiful churches and religious buildings in clear sight, but also in the many ways in which the faith manifests itself.
The feast in Macau is an important date in the Special Administrative Region’s calendar of religious celebrations. The commemoration of the feast day in Macau involves a huge religious procession in which an image of the Our Lady of Fatima is carried followed by many devotees who are not just from the local community but also many who come from far and wide.
The commemoration which starts with the celebration of mass at St. Dominic’s Church in Senado Square, sees the famous square turn into a sea of people and candlelight as thousands of Catholics follow a statue of the Virgin, placed on a bed of roses, as it is carried on a two and a half kilometre route from St. Dominic’s to the Church of Our Lady of Penha. The procession, during which the Rosary is recited and hymns sung, makes its way from the square through narrow streets by the square up to the Cathedral. From the Cathedral, it turns down to the Avenida da Praia Grande on which it makes its way south before turning west to the Avenida da Republica. The final third of the route involves an uphill climb up the steep road to Penha Hill on which Our Lady of Penha chapel is perched.
The procession is a moving experience for anyone attending and ends with a Benediction which is held at the entrance of the Church of Our Lady of Penha. Following this the congregation streams into the church to receive a rose which comes from the bed of roses the statue of Our Lady is carried on.