Europe

Pope to mark Fatima centenary with May 2017 trip to Portugal

  • Pope Francis is cheered by faithful as he arrives for a special audience granted to some of the employees of the "Bambin Gesu "pediatric hospital in the Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pope Francis is cheered by faithful as he arrives for a special audience granted to some of the employees of the "Bambin Gesu "pediatric hospital in the Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis is cheered by faithful as he arrives for a special audience granted to some of the employees of the "Bambin Gesu "pediatric hospital in the Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pope Francis is cheered by faithful as he arrives for a special audience granted to some of the employees of the "Bambin Gesu "pediatric hospital in the Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis is to visit the Fatima shrine in Portugal next year on the centenary of the date when three shepherd children said the Virgin Mary first appeared to them above an olive tree.

The Portuguese president's office announced on its website Thursday that the pontiff will be in the small farming town on May 12 and 13, 2017. The first apparition was May 13, but a midnight mass the previous day usually begins the annual celebrations.

While the Vatican only confirms papal trips closer to the date, Francis himself has previously said he planned to visit Fatima to mark the anniversary.

Francis will be the fourth pope to visit Fatima. The last one was Benedict XVI in 2010, when he also visited the cities of Lisbon and Porto.