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International shrine status
a deserved honour for Knock

THERE is much celebration in Knock and the north-west generally at this time with the formal elevation of the Marian Shrine by Pope Francis from a national to an international sanctuary. The shrine is now to be known as an International Sanctuary of Special Eucharistic and Marian Devotion.
Speaking (via a special video link from the Vatican) at a virtual Mass on Friday evening last, 19th March, the pope said the event marked an “important moment” in the life of the Marian Shrine at Knock.
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.
Normally, an event of this nature would draw a large number of pilgrims, but on this occasion the designation was brought about via streaming and on-line link-ups – a massive transformation from the genesis of it all.
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.
Custodian of the shrine, Archbishop Michael Neary, who celebrated the special mass on Friday evening, 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 and he commended all involved. Friday’s event was a culmination of a long campaign.
“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.
He also said it was fitting the designation was being made on the Feast day of St. Joseph in the year of St. Joseph.
The Mass was concelebrated by Fr Richard Gibbons, parish priest and rector of the shrine, and now first rector of Knock International Sanctuary of Special Eucharistic and Marian Devotion.
Father Gibbons said it was an historic day. Speaking earlier to RTE he said international recognition was the highest honour you can achieve as a shrine in the worldwide family of the church.
“However, we have demonstrated we can handle international pilgrimages before. We had pilgrimages in recent years from New York and Boston and a pilgrimage from Cologne was planned just before the pandemic”.
At another level, of course, Knock is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland and attracts one and a half million people every year. The latest upgrade elevates the shrine to the same status as Lourdes and Fatima.