As President of the Irish Episcopal Conference, I warmly welcome the announcement from the Holy See that the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock is to be recognised as an International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine from 19 March 2021, the feast of Saint Joseph. Since my parents first brought me to Knock as a teenager, I have been drawn back there, many times, to praise God and to find peace, encouragement and spiritual comfort in the shrine chapel.
Just as in 1879, when the Apparition at Knock brought hope to Irish people in distress, so also during these challenging days of the COVID-19 pandemic it reminds us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph remain close to us. As we continue to struggle in so many ways with restrictions and upheaval, the message of Knock offers the promise of hope. It calls us to hear afresh the Word of God, to be nourished by the Holy Eucharist, to entrust ourselves to the Maternal care of Our Lady, and to focus on the person and the role of Saint Joseph – especially in this year dedicated to him.
The Holy Father’s announcement will be particularly welcome as we begin the “Year of the Family”. I recall accompanying Pope Francis during his pilgrimage to Knock as part of his visit to the World Meeting of Families 2018. I heard him say that he had come to “the house of Our Lady” at Knock where he “lifted up to Our Lady’s loving intercession all the families of the world”. He recognised the fact that in the Apparition tableau, Our Lady appears with her family – Jesus, the Lamb of God, her husband Saint Joseph, and Saint John, the son given her by Jesus on the Cross. All being well, as the restrictions ease in the coming months, many Irish families will be able to follow the Holy Father’s footsteps and pay a thanksgiving visit to Knock – now an internationally recognised Marian and Eucharistic Shrine!
I share the joy of Archbishop Michael Neary and thank him for all the work he has done in paving the way for this most welcome announcement. I also congratulate the Rector of the Shrine at Knock, Father Richard Gibbons, and all who collaborate with him in making Knock the special and welcoming place it is.
- Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
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