50,000 'to witness' Knock apparition

Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 00:00

The Dublin man who describes himself as “a visionary of our Blessed Mother” has predicted that as many as 50,000 people will gather in the basilica at Knock tomorrow afternoon in the hope of witnessing a visitation from the Virgin Mary.

Speaking to The Irish Timesthis afternoon, Joe Coleman said the apparition would be visible “to people who come with an open heart”.

He claimed he had been asked by the Virgin Mary to recite the Rosary in the company of a priest and expressed disappointment that the Catholic Church had yet to make one available for the event.

He also said  the hierarchy had only agreed to open the church doors after pressure had been applied by the faithful.

“The Church has been mocking me for the past week, it does not understand how Our Lady can come to a man from Ballyfermot,” he said. “They won’t laugh at me tomorrow."

Pat Lavelle, a spokesman for Knock Shrine, said there had never been any plans to lock the church doors. "The is nothing scheduled in the basilca for tomorrow. It is open but there is nothing else going on," he said. "We were never going to lock the church". 

He said that additional security had been drafted to ensure that tomorrow's gather was safelly managed.

Earlier this week, the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, issued a statement clarifying the church’s view of Mr Coleman’s predictions.

“It is not healthy, does not give glory to God and certainly is not good witness to the faith to be looking for extraordinary phenomena," he said.

“The apparition of 1879 was neither sought nor expected by the humble, honest people who were its astonished witnesses . . . Unfortunately, recent events at the Shrine obscure this essential message. They risk misleading God’s people and undermining faith. For this reason such events are to be regretted rather than encouraged.”.

An estimated 5,000 people gathered at Knock Shrine on October 11th hoping to see an apparition of Our Lady, which had also been forecast by Mr Coleman.

At the appointed hour, there were ripples of applause from the crowd with some people saying they could see the sun shimmering, changing colour and dancing in the sky.

While many of the crowd were rapturous after the event, there were others who were highly sceptical.

Mr Lavelle, who was present on October 11th, said that there had been "a certain amount of hysteria on display. There was an awful lot of expectation, even when the sun came out from behind a cloud there was a ripple of applause. It is a sigh of the times really."