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  1. ITV Report

Tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims greet the Pope in Portugal

Pope Francis has been greeted by crowds of tens of thousands as he arrived in Portugal to make two impoverished shepherd children into saints.

The Pontiff is celebrating 100 years since three illiterate children reported the Virgin Mary had appeared to them and revealed "secrets" foreshadowing major world events including World War II and the rise and fall of communism.

Their apparitions became one of the most important important events of the 20th-century Catholic Church.

Huge crowds of Catholic faithful who had travelled from as far afield as Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba, gave the Pope an ecstatic welcome as he arrived in the shrine town of Fatima to pay tribute.

Francis greets followers from a lit-up Popemobile. Credit: APTN

Authorities are expecting around 1 million people to converge on the small town, one of the world's most popular pilgrimage sites, during the Pope's visit.

They have mounted a huge security operation, with some 3,000 police and other security officials sent to the town and mandatory security checks introduced all along Portugal's borders.

Francis waved to vast crowds of exuberant followers from his Popemobile as he arrived at the Fatima shrine where the three children experienced the visions.

He will make two of them saints in a ceremony on Saturday.

Thousands of police have been deployed and extra security brought in nationally. Credit: APTN

Many of those gathered to see his arrival had waited through the night and braved steady cold rain to see the church leader.

"For me it is the second time I am here with a Pope, first with John Paul II and now with Papa Francisco," said pilgrim Elisabete Fradique Conceicao in between rain showers.

The Pope prayed before the statue of theMadonna at the chapel built in Fatima at the site of the apparitions.

In a speech he called on Catholics to "tear down all walls" and go to the peripheries to spread peace and justice.