Pope visits Knock Shrine: How an apparition seen by 15 people made small rural village into holy pilgrimage site

Miraculous cures were reported in Knock, a small village in the west of Ireland, after 15 villagers said they saw a two-hour apparition of Our Lady, St Joseph, St John the Evangelist and a lamb

Peter Stubley
Sunday 26 August 2018 11:25
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'I beg the Lord’s forgiveness' for child abuse 'betrayal' says Pope Francis at a service in Knock, Ireland

Pilgrims have queued up to see Pope Francis visit the Knock Shrine where villagers claim to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary and the Lamb of God nearly 140 years ago.

The pontiff was due to spend an hour at the holy site in County Mayo on Sunday morning on the second day of his historic trip to the Republic of Ireland.

Around 45,000 people were expected to attend the ticketed event.

The significance of the site goes back to the evening of 21 August 1879, when Knock was a small, rural village.

"At around 8.30pm, 15 people saw a light coming from the parish church so they made their way over to the gable wall to see what it was," said Maria Casey, marketing and communications manager at Knock Shrine.

"They saw the apparition of Our Lady, St Joseph, St John the Evangelist and a lamb.

"They said the apparition lasted for two hours."

News of the apparition spread quickly and a commission of enquiry was set up to hear testimony from the 15 witnesses.

People began to descend on the area as newspaper reports spread across Ireland, England and America, and the shrine became known for miraculous cures.

Soon after the vision it was claimed that Delia Gordon, a 12 year-old deaf girl who suffered severe pain, recovered her hearing after a piece of cement from the gable wall was placed on her ear.

"People started to come here in the hope of receiving cures, and Knock became synonymous for that," said Ms Casey.

"And people came to the spot of the apparition to get some clay or holy water to send to abroad.

"It has developed over the years and it has a very unique story in the sense that it's the only shrine in the world where the Lamb of God has appeared.

"As well as being a Marian shrine, it is a Eucharistic shrine. People have a special affinity with the place."

An estimated 1.5m pilgrims travel to the Knock Shrine each year.

Pope Francis is following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II, who visited the hallowed spot in 1979

The rector of Knock Shrine, Richard Gibbons, said he hoped Pope Francis would make significant remarks and address issues which are paramount to the Catholic Church.

After leaving Knock at around 11am, Pope Francis is due to address a huge outdoor mass in front of an expected half-a-million people at Dublin's Phoenix Park from 2.30pm.

On Saturday the pope said he feels "pain and shame" at the failure of the church to tackle child sex abuse scandals.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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