By Ann Marie Foley - 12 August, 2020
Knock shrine and its grounds will be closed on Saturday, 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, on what is usually the busiest day of the year at the national shrine.
It had previously been announced that the annual novena was cancelled but the new development has come because of COVID-19 and means that the gates and doors will remain closed and Masses will be broadcast online.
“In the light of the current escalation of COVID-19 cases around the country together with the sheer impossibility of having the resources necessary to deal with the potential of large numbers of people gathering at the shrine for 15 August and being extremely conscious of our responsibility for the safety of our parishioners, pilgrims, visitors, staff, volunteers and priests, Knock Shrine has taken the unprecedented and heart-breaking decision to close the shrine and grounds for 15 August only,” said Father Richard Gibbons, Rector, Knock.
He explained that the decision was taken following discussions with church and state bodies. “We are appealing to people therefore, not to travel to Knock for 15 August as the shrine and grounds will be closed off to everyone in order to prevent large gatherings,” said Fr Gibbons.
“As can be appreciated, there would be no point in asking people not to come while the Shrine is open, such a message would be ambiguous and cause confusion. The responsible course of action as a result, is to close the shrine and grounds,” he said.
He explained that everyone working at the National Marian Shrine has been “extra vigilant in living up to our responsibilities” during the pandemic and they have kept people’s physical and spiritual wellbeing to the fore.
“I would ask for your understanding and patience at this time. It is by trusting in God, looking out for one another and trusting our medical professionals that we will overcome this virus,” he said.
There have been some posts on Facebook about a ‘Patriot pilgrimage’ to Knock on the feast day. Journalist and activist Gemma O’Doherty has a poster about the ‘Patriot’ gathering in Knock on her website, and she has spoken about it in one of her livestreams. She has come to the fore most recently for in her protests against COVID-19 restrictions and has been to court to appeal for the lifting of the restrictions that were imposed by the Irish Government.
The Knock Novena, which was scheduled to run from 14-22 August, had already been postponed due to the COVID-19, and it would have included the Feast of the Assumption. Normally on the feast day the shrine would be open from 5.00 a.m. for confessions. The first Mass would take place at 6.00 a.m. for people who would traditionally walk to Knock during the previous night and early morning. There would be Masses nearly every hour until evening for enormous numbers of people coming from all over the country and beyond. Over 20,000 people usually visit the shrine on that day.
This year it will be different as the shrine and grounds will be closed from 8.00 p.m. on Friday 14 August to 7.00 a.m. on Sunday 16 August. Masses will be celebrated online only and behind closed doors at 12.00 noon, 3.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.
Last year Archbishop Rino Fisichella gave the keynote address at the Mayo shrine for the Feast of the Assumption. The President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization has said he was particularly moved by the apparition which occurred in Knock more than 140 years ago.