Brian O’Dwyer and Cardinal Dolan boarding pilgrimage flight to Ireland West Airport Twitter

The first US flight in eight years has landed at Knock Airport in Mayo, Ireland.

The pilgrimage flight operated by Aer Lingus from JFK was led by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and was greeted by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. 

Irish American political leader Brian O’Dwyer was also on board along with 178 other pilgrims.

Kenny stated: "They've come here not just to see scenery, but to participate in a pilgrimage, and I hope in the land of St Patrick and the place of apparition of Mary they get a deep appreciation of what that spiritualism is, the kind of people we are and the land that we inhabit."

Airport Chairman Joe Kennedy said the flight was the first in eight years from the US to Knock. He stated discussions were ongoingn to bring new flights from New York and Boston to Knock.

4,000 people were scheduled to attend a special mass on Sunday from Knock Shrine which was also being broadcast on Irish television. 

The parish priest at Knock, Fr Richard Gibbons, told The Irish Times the announcement of the New York pilgrimage was “a very important and historic step for the promotion of Knock.” 

Knock Airport he said “was built specifically to welcome pilgrims to Knock shrine as well as to develop the economic life of the west.”

The story of Knock began on the 21st August, 1879 when, at approximately 8 O’ clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village of Knock in Co. Mayo, said they witnessed an Apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church.

There were fifteen witnesses to the Apparition, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas and ranged in age from just 5 years old to 74 years old. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879.