In the sixteenth century, Portuguese sailors promised the Virgin Mary to make her loved wherever they went. The first missionaries who arrived in Angola on April 29, 1491, immediately built a small church dedicated to "Nossa Senhora Santa Maria" (Our Lady Holy Mary). The first churches dedicated to Mary date from the late 16th to 17th centuries.
In the 20th century, the apparitions of Fatima had a great impact in Angola.
There are seven main pilgrimage sites:
· Luanda (the capital): Our Lady of Conception (late 16th century), recently restored.
· Luanda: Our Lady of Nazaré (1664), which takes its name from a Portuguese shrine.
· San Salvador: Our Lady of Victories
· Cambambe: Our Lady of the Rosary
· Ambaca: Our Lady of the Assumption
· Bengo: Our Lady of the Angels.
· Muxima: On the banks of the Kwanza River, the church honors the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
There are 9 cathedrals dedicated to Mary:
· Luanda: Our Lady of Remedies (built in 1679) which is the current cathedral.
· Huambo: Our Lady of Conception
· Malanje: Our Lady of the Assumption
· Luso: Our Lady of Fatima
· Uije: Our Lady of Conception
· Benguela: Our Lady of Fatima
· Saurino: Our Lady of the Assumption
· Novo Redondo: Our Lady of Conception
· Njiva: Our Lady of the Assumption.
The recent influence of Our Lady of Fatima
The message of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima (1917) immediately reached Angola. On the 13th of every month, especially from May to October, the people were very involved in prayers. In 1948, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima visited the main shrines of the country.
While the civil war ravaged the country, the Virgin Mary was proclaimed patroness and queen of Angola, on October 13, 1985, with a liturgical feast instituted every year on the Saturday preceding the last Sunday of October.
The peace treaty was signed in 1991, after 15 years of war. And Pope Saint John Paul II visited Angola the following year, from June 4-10 June, 1992.
Saint John Paul II: Look up to the Family of Nazareth!
At a time when the extended family has less and less importance, you, Christian parents, take seriously your duty to educate your children on a human and Christian level. They are your continuation. Give them the best that you can give them: a righteous conscience, a Christian life, and the ability to be useful and prepared members of society and their country. Raise your eyes towards the Family of Nazareth! Look at the hidden life of the Son of God made man, in company with Mary and Joseph (see Lk 2: 51-52). May the Holy Family grant you this profound human and Christian maturity. Then your family will truly be a "domestic Church" (LG 11), a fertile ground for the various vocations that society and the Church need, to sprout and grow. Fathers and mothers! Sometimes this vocation is a total gift of self in the service of the Church as a priest or in the religious life. Know how to recognize this vocation, respect it and collaborate in its realization.
Excerpts from John Paul II’s homily in Lubango, Angola, on June 5, 1992
Attilio GALLI, Madre della Chiesa dei Cinque continenti, Ed. Segno, Udine, 1997, p. 593-599