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Pilgrims support Pope during Portugal visit

Pilgrims support Pope during Portugal visit
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Tens of thousands of pilgrims greeted Pope Benedict XVI as he arrived in the famous Portuguese shrine town of Fatima.

He held an outdoor mass at the place where, 93 years earlier, three children reported having visions of the Virgin Mary.

Worshippers said they hoped the Pope would take strength from their support as he struggles to deal with the sex abuse scandal which has shaken the core of the Catholic church.

“I think that it is good that the Pope has not been hiding. He has shown strength over the last few days after all the criticism he has received,” said Spanish pilgrim Abraham Gilvez.

“I think that it is a good thing that the Pope is supported by young people during these hard times, when he is being fiercely criticised,” said Luca, an Italian pilgrim.

The mass at Fatima was the centrepiece of the pontiff’s four day visit to Portugal.

A statue of the Virgin Mary was carried through the crowds attending the mass, containing the bullet removed from the pope’s predecessor John Paul II after a failed assassination attempt.

Pope Benedict explained that John Paul had placed the bullet in the statue’s crown as a gesture of gratitude, believing that it was the Virgin’s unseen hand which had saved him.

During the trip, the Pope spoke about the sufferings of the world and acknowledged “sin” within the Church.