Papal Legate Celebrates in Knock

Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Ouellette celebrates Mass at Ireland’s National Marian Shrine, Knock


“Pope Benedict XVI wanted me, as Papal Legate, to extend his special apostolic blessing for Ireland” – Cardinal Ouellet

Capacity Crowds of 5000 people filled the Basilica along with over 100 priests to celebrate the the Eucharistic Congress in Knock today!


Today, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet prayed with pilgrims at the Apparition Chapel at Ireland’s Marian Shrine of Knock, Co Mayo in the Archdiocese of Tuam.  After prayers, Cardinal Ouellet was chief celebrant at Mass in the adjacent Basilica.  Concelebrants included the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown; Archbishop of Tuam and custodian of the Marian Shrine, Archbishop Michael Neary; Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin; Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert; Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala; Bishop Michael Drennan, Bishop of Galway; Bishop Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry; Father Richard Gibbons, Parish Priest of Knock; and over seventy priests from the Archdiocese of Tuam and surrounding dioceses.   The congregation of between five and six thousand people included women, men, young people, religious as well as pilgrims attending the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.  During the Mass the Sacrament of the Sick was offered and Mass was followed by a Eucharistic procession in the Basilica in which the Papal Legate carried the monstrance.  Please see below:

–          Words of welcome by Father Richard Gibbons, Parish Priest of Knock

–          Words of welcome by Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam

–          Homily of the Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Words of welcome by Father Richard Gibbons, Parish Priest of Knock

Your Eminence Cardinal Ouellet, on behalf of the people of Knock, pilgrims and all who are here today, I warmly welcome you to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland. I would ask you to convey our esteem and warm greetings to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.  We are delighted that you can afford us this time in your schedule to visit us.

Your Excellency Archbishop Brown, while you have visited Knock before, and you will be back with us again next weekend, this is your first official engagement at the Shrine and again on behalf of all of us I wish you every success and blessing in your role as Apostolic Nuncio – an onerous task – and one which you are carrying out with generosity and friendship.

I welcome our own Archbishop Michael Neary who is always so supportive of Knock and I wish to thank him for his generous support to me and to the Shrine.  I welcome also Bishop Kirby of Clonfert, Bishop Jones of Elphin, Bishop Fleming of Killala, Bishop Drennan of Galway and Bishop Kelly of Achonry and Bishop Martin from Nigeria along with all the visiting priests, religious and lay people who have joined us today for this special celebration.  Finally I welcome Monsignor Sangalli from the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll, Rector, Pontifical Irish College, Rome, and Father Gearóid Dullea, Executive Secretary of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Words of welcome by Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam

I welcome all pilgrims to Knock Shrine today. Joining with my brother bishops of the Metropolitan Province of Tuam, Bishop Kirby of Clonfert, Bishop Jones of Elphin, Bishop Fleming of Killala, Bishop Drennan of Galway and Bishop Kelly of Achonry, with the Parish Priest, Father Richard Gibbons, with priests at the Shrine and the concelebrants, with the Religious and all the pilgrims to Knock Shrine, I extend a ‘Ceád Míle Fáilte’ which, in our native Irish language, means a hundred thousand welcomes, to His Eminence, Cardinal Marc Ouellet to Knock Shrine. He comes as a legate of Pope Benedict to the Eucharistic Congress and your visit to Knock, Your Eminence, is an extension of the Eucharistic Congress to the National Shrine of Our Lady here at Knock. This is a wonderful privilege for all of us and we are extremely grateful to Your Eminence.

In addition to visiting Knock Shrine, His Eminence spent Tuesday night on penitential pilgrimage at Lough Derg.

During his visit to Ireland he has met with survivors of abuse.

The generosity of the service which Your Eminence provides for the Church was evidenced by your coming to deliver the opening lecture at the Symposium on the Eucharist at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth on the 6th June. You had to return to Rome early in the morning of the 7th and you returned then to Ireland as Papal Legate to the Eucharistic Congress on Saturday, the 9th June.

When Blessed John Paul II came to Ireland in 1979, on arriving at Knock he said “I have reached the goal of my journey to Ireland”. We are delighted that Your Eminence is tracing those footsteps on this historic occasion.

The theme of the Eucharistic Congress today is ‘The Word through Mary’. It is so appropriate that this gathering takes place at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock. The apparition here in 1879 has a very striking Eucharistic dimension. The apparition took place during a very difficult and demanding time in the aftermath of the great famine in Ireland when people were dying of starvation while others were emigrating. In the apparition Our Lady was identifying with a broken and beaten people, suffering and starving, and pointing them towards her Son, Jesus Christ, the bread of life in the Eucharist.

Today, there is a hunger, perhaps of a different kind, as people search for meaning and hope, for consolation and comfort. We pray that the International Eucharistic Congress will bring healing and hope to those who have been hurt, to the disillusioned and to all who are searching for God in our culture today.

This is my first opportunity to extend a public welcome to the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown to our Archdiocese and to Knock Shrine. Your Excellency we are particularly privileged to welcome you as the continuing presence of Pope Benedict the XVI here in Ireland. This is your first public visit to Knock Shrine and we look forward to your presence with us here on many occasions to lead us in prayer and celebration of the Eucharist. Pilgrims are drawn here from all over the country and indeed from across the world as they entrust themselves to the Mother of God who was given to all of us by her Son on the cross. Pilgrims come here carrying their particular crosses of ill health, loneliness and hurt and through making contact with our Lord and Our Lady they are enabled to take up their crosses and go forward, comforted and consoled, with hope in their hearts, enabled and encouraged to resume their responsibilities in life.

Your Eminence, we express our deep gratitude to you for coming to lead us in the celebration of the Eucharist today and for the hope and joy which your visit brings to all of us. We would ask you to convey the prayers and good wishes of all who are gathered here at Knock today to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Homily of Cardinal Marc Ouellet

On the occasion of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Pope Benedict XVI wanted me, as Papal Legate, to extend his special apostolic blessing for Ireland. He asked me to come here on his behalf to this National Shrine at Knock so that you may know of his special care for you and of his daily prayer that you and all the people of Ireland may know the Lord’s peace, consolation and comfort.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Father knows that the Church here is suffering at this time and is in need of hope and renewal. He entrusts all your hurts, your sufferings and your struggles to Our Lady of Knock, the Queen of Ireland. Let us be confident that there is light beyond this present darkness and that our faith is stronger than the evil of this world and our own failures.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which falls by design the day after the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. These two hearts are inseparable, they belong to each other and to God’s unfathomable mercy; they belong to us, the children of God.

Let us rejoice and be glad! God, in His mercy, forgives us of our sins and failures and, in His grace, makes all things new. Let us praise Him and be grateful for His immense goodness and mercy. The prophet Isaiah, in the first reading today, lifts us up with his message of hope, announcing days of renewal and of rejoicing.

The Gospel reminds us of a dramatic moment in the life of the Holy Family. While returning from their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph could not find the young Jesus for three days. What anguish for them! Mary’s question to Jesus reveals her anxiety and the reality that their family life was not without the difficulties of daily life faced by every human family. Jesus asks, “Did you not know that I must be busy with my father’s affairs?” (Lk. 2:49). But the Gospel tells us, “They did not understand what he meant” (Lk. 2:50). But the Holy Family always placed everything in God’s hands.

We often face similar difficult situations in family life, which is often tested and strained by tensions, separations and misunderstandings. The Church, as God’s family, is also challenged and criticised, sometimes for legitimate reasons and at other times not. We need hope and renewal at all levels. However, whenever we attempt to renew ourselves on our own without placing everything in God’s hands, we fall again into the same patterns of division and discouragement.

The French poet Charles Peguy reveals his own life story through the story of a peasant who was going through a very difficult family situation. His wife was a non-believer, and one of his three children was gravely ill. He was on the edge of despair and did not know what to do. He suffered terribly until he was inspired one morning to take to the road and make a pilgrimage in honour of Our Lady, walking from Notre Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres.

“She is a mother,” he said. “She will take care of my children as she has taken care of so many for two thousand years. She can certainly handle three more. She is a mother, the Mother of God, our Mother”.

And so it happened. The peasant entrusted his children to Our Lady with total confidence and abandonment, certain that she would answer his prayers.

Upon returning home, the man was surprised how much relief his bold gesture had brought him. Yes, a bold gesture of faith, which came naturally to our ancestors, but is all-too-often forgotten nowadays.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to pray with you here today and to entrust the Church in Ireland to our Immaculate Mother. Mary’s Immaculate Heart is a heart full of love that knows no boundaries, made in the image of Her Son’s Sacred Heart: a Heart formed in her womb, all-encompassing and seeking always to aid, console, encourage and strengthen everyone.

A sign of His special grace for the sick and the needy will be today that some of you receive the sacrament of anointing. May they experience peace and consolation as they unite their suffering to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Here at this beautiful shrine for the second time, I am once again struck by the unique image of the apparition. The centre of the apparition is the Lamb on the Altar, symbolizing the glorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Our Saviour. Around Him we see the Church represented by the prominent figures of Mary, St. Joseph, and the Beloved Disciple. As we see them worshipping the Lamb, we are drawn into the mystery of God’s presence and His merciful love.

Let us be grateful for the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, celebrated in a special way during this 50th International Eucharistic Congress here in Ireland; let us also be grateful for the many blessings God has bestowed upon the Universal Church through many Irish saints, missionaries, monks and pilgrims.

I would like to end this homily praying to Mary, our beloved Mother, with the same words that the Blessed Pope John Paul II said here on Sunday, 30 September 1979: ‘May our ears constantly hear with the proper clarity your motherly voice: “Do whatever my Son tells you”. Enable us to persevere with Christ. Enable us, Mother of the Church, to build up his Mystical Body by living with the life that he alone can grant us from his fullness, which is both divine and human’, Amen.


Notes for Editors

  • Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The contiguity of both celebrations is intself a litugical sign of the their close connection: the mysterium of the Heart of Jesus is projected onto and reverbarates in the Heart of His Mother, who is also one of His followers and a disciple (Directory of Popular Piety and Liturgy, 174).

  • Knock Shrine
    Each Irish diocese makes an annual pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine and the nine-day Knock novena attracts ten thousand pilgrims every August. The story of Knock began on the 21 August 1879 when Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of Knock Parish Church. This miraculous apparition was witnessed by fifteen people, young and old. Knock is an internationally recognised Marian Shrine and was visited by Blessed John Paul II as part of his 1979 papal pilgrimage to Ireland. During his visit – which coincided with the Shrine’s centenary year – the late pope celebrated Mass at the Shrine and addressed the sick, their helpers and pilgrimage directors. Archbishop Michael Neary is the custodian of the Marian Shrine. Please see:


For media and photographs contact:
Archdiocese of Tuam 00 353 (0) 93 24166 and the Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678

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