Pope says new status for Knock shrine brings ‘great responsibility’

Shrine has been formally elevated from a national to an international sanctuary

Pope Francis lighting a candle at   Knock’s shrine during his  trip to Ireland in August 2018. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/pool photo via AP

Pope Francis lighting a candle at Knock’s shrine during his trip to Ireland in August 2018. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/pool photo via AP

 

Pope Francis has formally elevated the Knock shrine from a national to an international sanctuary, which he said bestows a “great responsibility” on the Co Mayo site.

At a virtual Mass on Friday, the pope said this marked an “important moment” in the life of the Marian Shrine at Knock.

The shrine will from now be titled the International Sanctuary of Special Eucharistic and Marian Devotion.

The missionary people of Ireland must accept to “always have your arms wide open as a sign of welcome to every pilgrim who may arrive from any part of the world, asking nothing in return”, Pope Francis said at a virtual Mass on Friday evening.

The story of Knock began on August 21st, 1879, when 15 people claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist at the south gable of Knock church. The witnesses stood in front of the apparition for two hours in the rain, reciting the rosary.

Ever since, Pope Francis said, the Irish people, wherever they have found themselves, have “expressed their faith and devotion to Our Lady of Knock”.

Pope Francis visited the site three years ago as part of the World Meeting of Families.

On Friday, the pope asked: “How many families in the course of almost a century and a half have handed on the faith to their children and gathered their daily labours around the prayer of the Rosary, with the image of Our Lady of Knock at its centre?”

The message from Knock is that of the “great value of silence for our faith”, he added.

Profound gratitude

Custodian of the shrine, Archbishop Michael Neary, said the shift of status was a “momentous event”.

He said it was “fitting” that Knock would become an established international shrine, and he expressed his “profound gratitude” to the pope for acceding to the request that the apparition of 1879 be confirmed.

A substantial amount of work went into preparing material for the elevated designation, the archbishop added.

“I pray that pilgrims from all over Ireland and from across the world who come here, carrying their crosses, will experience deeply God’s closeness, the tenderness of the Virgin Mary and the company of the saints, so as to be encouraged and enabled to return home with a more buoyant faith, with hope in their hearts and a more ardent love for God and neighbour,” said Archbishop Neary.

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Neary and concelebrated by Fr Richard Gibbons, parish priest and rector of Knock shrine.