Knock Shrine announced today that it will be closed on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, a holy day of obligation in the Catholic church, due to coronavirus concerns.
Fr Richard Gibbons, the Rector of Knock Shrine, said in a statement shared on August 10 that the ultimate “unprecedented and heartbreaking” decision came after “detailed discussions with State and Church bodies.”
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Fr Gibbons said that typically some 20,000 people visit Knock Shrine in Co Mayo on the Feast of the Assumption and that masses are typically offered “practically every hour” that day.
The Feast of the Assumption is a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church. It commemorates the day that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."
Announcement for 15th August, Feast of the Assumption- Knock Shrine will be closed to the public. As has already been...Publiée par Knock Shrine sur Lundi 10 août 2020
Announcement for 15th August, Feast of the Assumption- Knock Shrine will be closed to the public.
"As has already been announced, the National Novena to Our Lady of Knock (14th – 22nd August) has been postponed due to the pandemic. This decision was taken to prevent gatherings of large numbers of people for the Novena.
"The 15th August, the Feast of the Assumption, would normally be the most highly attended day during the National Novena. In previous years the Shrine would be open from 5 am for Confessions. Our first Mass would take place at 6 am for people who would traditionally walk to Knock during the previous night and early morning. Masses would continue practically every hour until evening for enormous numbers of people coming from all over the country and beyond. For that day alone over 20,000 people would usually visit the Shrine.
"In the light of the current escalation of Covid-19 cases around the country together with the sheer impossibility of having the resources necessary to deal with the potential of large numbers of people gathering at the Shrine for the 15th August and being extremely conscious of our responsibility for the safety of our parishioners, pilgrims, visitors, staff, volunteers and priests, Knock Shrine has taken the unprecedented and heart-breaking decision to close the Shrine and grounds for the 15th August only. This decision was taken after detailed discussions with Church and State bodies. We are appealing to people therefore, not to travel to Knock for the 15th August as the Shrine and grounds will be closed off to everyone in order to prevent large gatherings.
"The Shrine and grounds will be closed from 8 pm on Friday 14th to 7 am on Sunday 16th August. Masses will be celebrated online only and behind closed doors at 12, 3 pm and 7.30 pm. As can be appreciated, there would be no point in asking people not to come while the Shrine is open, such a message would be ambiguous and cause confusion. The responsible course of action, as a result, is to close the Shrine and grounds for the 15th August only.
"As the National Marian Shrine, we have been extra vigilant in living up to our responsibilities amid this pandemic in placing people’s physical and spiritual wellbeing to the fore.
"I would ask for your understanding and patience at this time. It is by trusting in God, looking out for one another, and trusting our medical professionals that we will overcome this virus.
"May Our Lady of Knock protect you all - Fr Richard Gibbons, Rector of Knock Shrine."
What is Knock Shrine?
According to Knock Shrine, "The Story of Knock began on Thursday evening of the 21st August 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the church at Knock, County Mayo, Ireland.
"Beside them and a little to their left was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered.
"There were fifteen official witnesses to the apparition – young and old – who watched and prayed for two hours in the pouring rain. The witnesses were ordinary people from the village of Knock and surrounding hinterland.
"Two Commissions of Enquiry, in 1879 and 1936, accepted their testimony as trustworthy and satisfactory.
Today, Knock ranks among the world's major Marian Shrines and welcomes pilgrims to their facilities which include an award-winning museum, prayer guidance, youth ministry, counselling centre, contemporary cafe, and book shop, as well as daily Mass.
The Shrine's official pilgrimage season begins on the last Sunday of April and lasts until the second Sunday in October. The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is observed on August 15 as part of the National Novena to Our Lady of Knock, which takes place from August 14 - 22.
"Knock Shrine has a unique history and a number of beautiful churches, including the iconic Basilica which houses the ‘Apparition Mosaic’, a spectacular artwork and the largest of its kind in Europe."