According to an official statement by the Vatican on Monday, the pontiff will be visiting Marian shrine in Knock during his two-day trip to Ireland in August, marking his first papal trip to the country.
RTÉ reported that Francis is visiting the country in order to attend the Catholic World Meeting of Families in Croke Park, Dublin and to give the closing mass of the gathering at Phoenix Park. Visiting the west of Ireland is particularly significant since the last papal trip to Knock was by Pope John Paul II back in 1979.
He will fly to Knock West Airport on Sunday, August 26, but will be flying back to Dublin later the same day to give mass in Dublin.
Ireland West Airport are both delighted and honoured to confirm that the airport has received official confirmation from the Vatican that Pope Francis will arrive into the airport as part of a historic papal visit to the Marian Shrine at Knock in August. https://t.co/00zcZGVgS6 pic.twitter.com/De16MTvx9w— Ireland West Airport (@Irelandwest) June 11, 2018
The famous Knock apparition began on the evening of August 21, 1879. Mary McLoughlin, the housekeeper to the parish priest of Knock, County Mayo, saw three figures standing in front of the church wall. She rushed through the rain to her friend Margaret Byrne's house. After a half hour, Mary decided to leave, and Margaret's sister agreed to walk home with her.
As they passed the church they saw an amazing vision very clearly: standing out from the gable and to the west of it appeared the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John.
Mary Byrne ran to tell her family while Mary McLoughlin gazed at the apparition. Soon a crowd of fifteen gathered, young and old, and all saw the apparition.
The Basilica of Our Lady in Knock has undergone massive renovations in recent years costing millions of dollars and is ready to go for his holiness. It has been confirmed that Francis will be reciting the Angelus prayer at the Marian shrine while he is there.
Irish-American Lawyer Brian O’Dwyer, an advocate for County Mayo and a member of the board for Knock West Airport said that this visit will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and immensely important for the west of Ireland.
“For Roman Catholics, [Pope] Francis has been a true inspiration in terms of the church and his advocacy for the poor and particularly the undocumented immigrants. He’s an inspiring leader for many of us, so it’s important that he goes to Knock,” said O’Dwyer.
Read More: 2,000 show up for vision of Mary at Knock predicted by 14-year-old girl
Similarly, the visit is economically significant in his view given that it will help boost tourism in the region and help the local economy thrive.
Pope Francis’ brief visit to #Ireland for @WMOF2018 Aug. 25-26 will include a quick trip to @Knockshrine and a special meeting with homeless families. https://t.co/yZYnJ5VdSu via @CatholicSpirit pic.twitter.com/18TXIImuxQ— Catholic News Service (@CatholicNewsSvc) June 12, 2018
In an economic sense, “It establishes the importance of Knock as a pilgrimage site, so the idea of bringing pilgrims and other tourists to the west of Ireland is really exciting,” as O’Dwyer further stated. He believes that the papal visit will be important for Knock and the whole of the Great Atlantic Way, which has already seen a great deal of promotion from Tourism Ireland.
The pontiff is also planned to make a trip to Dublin Castle and the Pro-Cathedral prior to heading over to the Capuchin Day Center for Homeless Families.
The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar felt that the papal trip is going to be a “hugely important opportunity to showcase Ireland as images of this visit will be viewed around the globe.”
However, there remains the contentious issue of Francis not planning on heading across the Irish border to the north, which has left many Catholics there feeling left out.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, stated that there are many out there who are disappointed and saddened to hear that the pontiff will not be visiting Northern Ireland. Despite this, Archbishop Martin expects these people will still come south to see him in their thousands.