COEUR d'ALENE - Clutching strings of rosary beads, hundreds of Catholics made their way Saturday through downtown Coeur d'Alene for the 19th annual International Rosary March.
As they walked along Sherman Avenue from 23rd Street to Independence Point, men, women and children of all ages recited the prayers of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a centuries-old devotional practice deeply rooted in Catholicism.
"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee," recited the walkers, as they were led through prayers by other march participants using loudspeakers, some of them priests.
The march's mission is world peace, said Jan Karstettner, a former longtime organizer of the event organized by Immaculate Conception Church in Post Falls.
The annual march has grown since it began in 1994, with an estimated 500 participants in Coeur d'Alene this year.
"It's a worldwide march now," she said.
Saturday's long line of prayerful participants followed banners emblazoned with images of "Mary Our Queen" and "Christ Our King."
Students from Immaculate Conception Academy, the church's private boys school in Post Falls, held a statue of the Virgin Mary high above the crowd as the assembly made its march.
"We do this to fulfill Our Lady of Fatima's message that was given in 1917," Karstettner said.
Many Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared several times to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, between May and October 1917. In her message to the children, the Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Fatima, told the children that Russia must be consecrated by the Pope and all the world's bishops. That request has never been fulfilled, Karstettner said.
The consecration would lead to the conversion of Russia to the Roman Catholic faith.
"Then, there will be true peace in the world," Karstettner said. "It's the message all of us need to start praying."
Karstettner, of Spokane Valley, and Cathy Cattaneo, of Hayden, each said today's lack of world peace is evidence the consecration of Russia has never occurred.
Several attempts at consecration have been made, but they were not done according to Our Lady of Fatima's requirements, and therefore do not suffice, according to Fatima's followers.
"We, God's children, are to listen and fulfill this message that's been given to us," Cattaneo said.
Karstettner said completing the consecration "will prevent World War III."
Hundreds of Catholics carrying strings of rosary beads, pray and sing as they walk through downtown Coeur dÕAlene during SaturdayÕs International Rosary March.