By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 August, 2013
The future Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has welcomed news of a major renovation programme planned for Knock shrine.
“It is great to hear that they have plans to refurbish it over the next number of years so that it will remain with us for many years to come,” the Archbishop told CatholicIreland.net
Fr Richard Gibbons, parish priest at the national shrine in Co Mayo, said the refurbishment plans were needed as the shrine attracts as many as 1.6 million pilgrims a year.
According to Fr Gibbons, the Church will seek to promote Knock especially in Continental Europe and the USA following its facelift.
“We have an annual attendance of 1.6 million, which is extraordinary – it even beats the Guinness hopstore. It is not spoken of that often but we want to tackle that and get it better promoted than it is,” he said.
The 42-year-old parish priest, who only took over his role in Knock in February 2012, explained that there would be three aspects to the upgrade.
The first part will involve the “complete interior refurbishment of the basilica” which was built in 1976. “It is a little tired and jaded and it has to meet modern requirements,” he said.
He said the plan had been in the pipeline for over a year but that it would involve a major fundraising drive before any work could begin.
“This will be launched in September and please God the work on the basilica will begin in October 2014,” Fr Gibbons said.
He said he had no idea of the cost involved until the plans come together. “We are with our planning committee at the moment, so we have to cost everything. I don’t want to say a figure until I am absolutely sure but it will be quite expensive,” he admitted.
Other aspects of the major overhaul will involve the incorporation of new faith formation and catechetical programmes aimed at visiting pilgrims.
The third dimension of the renovation plan will be a marketing campaign to promote Knock at home and abroad.
Cardinal Sean Brady told CatholicIreland.net, “So many come here, obviously there are new needs. I applaud their planning for the needs of the future and the needs of those who travel long distances to get here.”
Th Cardinal also paid tribute to the welcome visiting pilgrims get in Knock and the amount of volunteering that went on to help make it a memorable visit for visitors. “It is great that they get the welcome they do. There is so much voluntary care and people who give of their time.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin commented, “I don’t think we realise the treasure we have in Knock. It is a very special place of prayer and reflection and the fact that people of all faiths and none come here to be lifted up in their spirit shows there is something really special about Knock.”