Covid-19 forces Our Lady of Knock shrine to close Aug. 15 to discourage crowds

Pope Francis is pictured in a file photo praying as he visits the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Knock Shrine in Knock, Ireland. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

KNOCK, Ireland (CNS) — The Marian shrine at Knock announced Aug. 10 that in addition to postponing the popular Knock Novena and pilgrimage because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shrine and its church would be closed for the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption of Mary to ensure pilgrims do not arrive anyway.

“Father Richard Gibbons, rector at Knock, has appealed to people not to travel to Knock on 15th August as the shrine and grounds will be closed in order to prevent large gatherings in the context of COVID-19,” said a statement posted Aug. 10 on the shrine’s website.

Advertisement

The feast of the Assumption traditionally is the centerpiece of the Knock Novena and normally would draw 20,000 pilgrims to the shrine, the statement said. Over the course of the novena Aug. 14-22 as many as 150,000 people normally would go to the shrine for prayer and lectures.

“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 Aug. 15 and, “extremely conscious of our responsibility for the safety of our parishioners, pilgrims, visitors, staff, volunteers and priests,” Father Gibbons said, the shrine will close at 8 p.m. Aug. 14 and not reopen until 7 a.m. Aug. 16.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

 

“This decision was taken after detailed discussions with church and state bodies,” the rector said. “We are appealing to people therefore, not to travel to Knock for the 15th August as the shrine and grounds will be closed off to everyone in order to prevent large gatherings.”

Leaving the shrine open, he added, would be “ambiguous and cause confusion.”

During the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the shrine’s livestreamed Masses and offer allowing people to virtually light a candle there proved very popular. For the feast of the Assumption, the shrine said, “Masses will be celebrated online only and behind closed doors” at noon, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

When the strict lockdown in Ireland ended, in late June the Knock shrine began offering Masses with a maximum of 50 people present; the number increased to 100 in July and to 200 Aug. 4. However, Ireland has been experiencing a growth in COVID-19 infection rates and some counties — but not County Mayo where Knock is located — have returned to lockdown measures.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore all of America’s in-depth coverage of the coronavirus pandemic]

Advertisement

The latest from america

The Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., from June 2001: William Emmett LeCroy, 50, on Tuesday would be the sixth federal inmate executed by lethal injection here this year. (CNS photo/Andy Clark, Reuters)
U.S. bishops call the application of capital punishment “completely unnecessary and unacceptable.”
Kevin ClarkeSeptember 22, 2020
Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Tony Flannery (CNS photo/Paul Haring/CNS photo/Irish Catholic)
The C.D.F. said today: ‘We did everything possible to dialogue with Father Flannery. It wasn’t always easy.’
Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 22, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic is adding to the financial woes of Catholic schools in inner cities. But better management and creative fundraising may save them, writes Lance L. Lee, a parent of two children in Catholic schools.
Lance LeeSeptember 22, 2020
Sixth-graders sit at their desks on the first day of classes of the new academic year at Our Lady of Victory School in Floral Park, N.Y., on Sept. 8. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
With many public schools still in virtual mode, parents are taking a new look at Catholic education. But Michael O’Loughlin reports that the reprieve from declining enrollment may be temporary.
Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 22, 2020