ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL NEARY’S RESPONSE TO POPE FRANCIS’ HOMILY ON THE OCCASION OF THE DESIGNATION OF KNOCK AS AN INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC AND MARIAN SHRINE
Feast of St. Joseph, 19 March 2021
Holy Father’s Homily
On behalf of all who are joining in our Mass from the Apparation Chapel here at Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock, and with His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Okolo, and Fr. Richard Gibbons, we express our heartfelt thanks to His Holiness Pope Francis for his thought-provoking, consoling and challenging homily.
Saintly and Papal Pilgrims
Knock has been honoured by the visit of Pope Saint John Paul II in 1979, St. Teresa of Calcutta in 1993, and three years ago Pope Francis. John Paul II acknowledged that people who come here, “troubled in their faith or their conscience, all have been healed, comforted and confirmed in their faith” because they trusted that the Mother of God would lead them to her Son, Jesus. Mother Teresa spoke very passionately on the sacredness of the human life of the unborn on her visit here. One of the most memorable experiences of the World meeting of Families was when Pope Francis prayed here in front of the Blessed Sacrament and before the Apparition Scene, as silence descended on the thousands of pilgrims outside. The Holy Father prayed “that amid the storms and winds that buffet our times, families would be a bulwark of faith and goodness and would resist anything that would diminish our dignity as men and women created in God’s image and called to the sublime destiny of eternal life”.
Apparition Confirmed and Shrine Status Raised
It was fitting, therefore, that Knock would be established as an International Shrine. It is with exuberant joy that I join with His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio Arcbishop Okolo, Fr. Richard Gibbons the Parish Priest of Knock and Rector of the International Shrine, and with all those who are devoted to the Eucharist and have a great love for Our Lady, the priests who minister at the Shrine, Stewards and Handmaids – now Cáirde Mhuire, and the Volunteers At Knock Shrine to express our profound gratitude to our Holy Father Pope Francis for acceding to the request that the Apparition of 1879 be confirmed and, as a result, that Knock be formally designated by the Church as an International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine. This is a momentous event, and it is most fitting that it would be announced and celebrated on the Feast of St. Joseph in the Year of St. Joseph, because alongside Our Lady, St. John the Evangelist and the Lamb of God, St. Joseph also appeared here on that August evening in 1879.
Words of Thanks
The Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Okolo, Archbishop Eamon Martin, President of the Irish Episcopal Conference and my Brother Bishops, the President of the Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelisation, Archbishop Fisichella, have all been most helpful in supporting this recognition for Knock. So much work went into the preparation of the material for this designation and for that I am deeply indebted to the Diocesan Secretary, Fr. Francis Mitchell, for his canonical expertise.
My Prayer for Pilgrims to Knock
I pray that pilgrims from all over Ireland and from across the world who come here, carrying their crosses, will “experience deeply God’s closeness, the tenderness of the Virgin Mary and the company of the saints,” so as to be encouraged and enabled to return home with a more buoyant faith, with hope in their hearts and a more ardent love for God and neighbour.