It was smiles all round as Ireland West Airport and Knock Shrine achieved a new landmark last week with the arrival of the first Aer Lingus transatlantic pilgrimage flight.
The Aer Lingus 757 airplane, carrying the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley and more than 170 passengers from a host of cities across the US, was greeted by a large crowd gathered at the airport to witness the first official chartered pilgrimage from Boston to Ireland’s National Marian Shrine.
The highlight of the group’s six-day visit to the West of Ireland was the Re-dedication of Knock Shrine, which took place on Saturday 16th July. Leading one of the pilgrimage groups was the Lord Mayor of West Roxbury, Richie Gormley, a native of Roscommon, who then took a group of more than 50 people on a six-day pilgrimage taking in sites in Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Sligo. This trip was particularly poignant for Richie as he flew in on the first ever transatlantic flight from New York to then Knock Airport in 1986 with Transamerica.
Speaking on landing in the West of Ireland Carinal O’Malley said: “It’s an honour for me to arrive into the beautiful West of Ireland on this historic flight. I am hugely excited to see what this beautiful part of Ireland has to offer and am particularly looking forward to visiting the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, in Knock and being part of the Re-dedication of Knock Shrine.”
Fr. Richard Gibbons, P.P., and Rector of Knock Shrine added “We are delighted to welcome Cardinal Seán O’Malley and the Archdiocese of Boston to celebrate the 40 year Rededication of Knock Basilica. This is the second organised pilgrimage coming in from the US, following from the visit of Cardinal Dolan last year which was truly wonderful for Knock and the whole region.
“The coinciding 40-year celebration of Knock Basilica is perfectly providential in echoing the dream of Monsignor James Horan to bring pilgrims to Knock from all over the world. This flight suggests greater things for Knock, the Airport and the wider community. We are anticipating crowds similar to the 15th August, which is traditionally a very busy day in Knock, and of course we welcome all to attend”.
Welcoming the flight, Joe Kennedy, Chairman, Ireland West Airport Knock, said: “I am honoured to welcome our visitors from the US on this historic occasion of the first ever Transatlantic service with Aer Lingus from Boston. It’s great to see people from all over the Boston region disembarking at Ireland West this morning. It further reinforces our strong belief that direct scheduled services from the likes of New York and Boston into Ireland West would be successful”.
Declan Kearney, Director of Communications for Aer Lingus said the airline was delighted that they had been chosen to provide the flights for this very important group of visitors.
“We hope our guests from the Boston area enjoyed the service on board their flight to Ireland West and we look forward to welcoming them on board for their homeward journey.” said Mr Kearney.
For further details of Aer Lingus flights to Knock, go to: www.aerlingus.com
By Joseph Kelly.
Picture: Joe Kennedy, Chairman, Ireland West Airport, presents a welcome gift to Cardinal O’Malley.