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Priest concerned for Croagh Patrick’s future

By Sean Ryan - 22 June, 2015

Croagh PatrickThe annual Reek Sunday climb of Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo will go ahead this year despite concerns over the state of conservation of the mountain and the impact of so many climbers.

Retired Westport parish priest, Fr Tony King, has called for the annual Reek Sunday climb to be suspended for three years to conserve the sacred mountain.

In his homily last Sunday, the former long-time Administrator of Westport parish said that the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage, which attracts some 30,000 pilgrims and climbers over the last weekend of July, should be suspended until a proper conservation plan is devised to tackle the erosion of the mountain which is 764 metres high.

Speaking at 12 noon Mass in St Mary’s Church in Westport Fr King said, “Croagh Patrick is our holy mountain. It is a sacred place.”

“The footprints of pilgrim people on that path carry the faith story of generations. The evidence of what is happening on the traditional pilgrim path of this mountain is disturbing. The impact can only be described as devastation due to erosion and neglect.”

“A lot of the damage I am told is due to it being used as a sky track for fitness by super-athletes. To look at the Reek from Liscarney, what was once the pilgrim path now appears as a broad dark gash ripping the side out of a beautiful mountain.”

He added, “The tragedy of what is happening is stunning. Future generations will look back in anger and haunt us for the way it is being neglected.”

Speaking about the future of climbing on the mountain he said, “I honestly feel that this holy mountain should be declared ‘off limits’ from above the statue of St Patrick to the summit for the next three years.”

Furthermore, he said consideration should be given to the suspension of the national pilgrimage for the same period until a proper environmental protection policy with regulations is put in place to protect and conserve what is a sacred place.

Referring to Pope Francis, Fr King said “People occasionally forgive us but nature never does.”

However, local parish priest Fr Charlie McDonnell has confirmed to CatholicIreland.net that “This year’s pilgrimage would go ahead.”

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