Pope Francis’ brief visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families from 25th-26th August will include a quick trip to the Marian shrine at Knock and a special meeting with homeless families.
He also will meet representatives of survivors of clerical abuse and residential abuse – such as Magdalen laundries and mother and baby homes – during his visit.
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, custodian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, said: “One of the most beautiful sights at Knock is to see families, sometimes the three generations, praying and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the shrine.”
The apparition at Knock in 1879, he said, “was family apparition”. Fifteen people in the village said they saw the apparition of Mary, Joseph, a lamb representing Jesus, and St John the Evangelist, to whom Jesus entrusted Mary as his mother.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh told media he expected many Catholics from Northern Ireland to travel to Knock for the occasion now that a papal visit north of the border had been ruled out.
He added that they were still “delighted that he is coming to this island, and we’ll celebrate that and make the most of it”.
Keeping his custom of setting aside time for the poor and others in particular need, Pope Francis also will visit a day centre for homeless families in Dublin.
The World Meeting of Families will conclude on 26th August with an open-air Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. This was the venue for St John Paul’s outdoor Mass in the Irish capital in 1979, where 1.25 million people attended.
However, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, president of the Ninth World Meeting of Families, stressed that the crowd would be capped at 600,000 to comply with health and safety regulations.
Picture: Family gathering – Archbishop Eamon Martin, front, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speak at a press conference at Maynooth University in Co Kildare outlining plans for Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland this summer.