By Lydia O’Kane
The message will be broadcast during Mass that will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, and concelebrated by Fr Richard Gibbons, Parish Priest and Rector of Knock Shrine.
This honour comes nearly two and a half years after Pope Francis visited the Marian Shrine, located in the west of Ireland, during his Apostolic Visit to the country for the World Meeting of Families.
While there, he prayed in front of the Chapel of the Apparition for all the families of the world, and presented the Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Knock with a golden rosary in acknowledgment of the tradition of the family rosary in Ireland.
The story of the apparition is a deeply symbolic and unique one, featuring the representation of the Eucharist as the risen Lord which appeared as the Lamb on the altar, standing before His Cross and surrounded by a host of angels.
On the 21 August 1879 fifteen people in the village of Knock stood for two hours in the pouring rain reciting the Rosary before the Apparition scene, which also featured Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist.
Joy and gratitude
Speaking ahead of Friday’s Eucharistic celebration, Fr Richard Gibbons said he was “thrilled and delighted” at this recognition. “It’s a great honour to be recognised in this manner and what it means is, I suppose we have the ultimate in terms of recognition from the Church.”
This special status is also being celebrated by the parishioners of the Shine, who have expressed their thanks to Pope Francis for honouring this Marian place of pilgrimage in this way.
Links to St Joseph
Ireland’s National Shrine is being honoured on the feast of St Joseph and on the day Pope Francis celebrates the eighth anniversary of his inauguration as Pope, which Fr Gibbons said, made it all the more significant. He also noted that Pope Francis, by visiting the this place of pilgrimage in 2018, had an understanding “of what the Shrine means to the Irish people and also the importance of the message”.
Our Lady of Knock
Apart from the Apostolic Visit, the Marian Shrine at Knock participated at the inaugural “Sunday of the Word of God” Mass presided over by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica in January 2020.
During the Eucharistic celebration, a new pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Knock, which was commissioned to celebrate the 140th Anniversary of the apparition at Knock in 1879, was displayed at the Papal Altar.
The statue was blessed by the Pope in Rome in 2019 following his visit to Ireland.
Asked if he expected to see more interest in the Shrine from abroad given its new international status, Fr Gibbons said he has received messages from people from all over the world saying that when they are allowed to travel they plan to come to Knock.
Knock Shrine amid the pandemic
Ireland at present is continuing to adhere to level 5 lockdown restrictions, which means that Masses continue to be followed online. Speaking about how Knock Shrine has led the way during this pandemic, the Rector highlighted, in particular, one such celebration in November of last year, which remembered all those who have died from COVID-19 on the island of Ireland. “In the Basilica, we had three thousand candles, one for every single person who had died, and over 120,000 people joined us for that Mass online,” he said.
As the Shrine is recognised with this special status, Fr Gibbons emphasized that it will help this Marian pilgrimage site “to look to the future full of hope.”
As part of the three days of celebration to St Joseph, Pope Francis will speak via video at the 7.30pm Mass on 19 March; Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, will speak at the 7.30pm Mass on 20 March; and to conclude the three days, Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam will speak at 12pm Mass on Sunday 21 March. (All times are local)
The Triduum will be streamed live on the Knock Shrine website www.knockshrine.ie, and on Facebook @knockshrine on Friday, March 19, at 7.30pm; Saturday, March 20, at 7.30pm; and concluding on Sunday, March 21, at 12 noon.