Knock Shrine will close on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, due to the increase in Covid-19 cases.
This “unprecedented and heart-breaking” decision was taken to prevent gatherings of large numbers of people for the Novena, Ireland’s National Marion Shrine has said. The National Novena to Our Lady of Knock, which runs from August 14th – 22nd, has already been postponed due to the pandemic.
“The 15th August, the Feast of the Assumption, would normally be the most highly attended day during the National Novena,” said Fr Richard Gibbons, the Rector of Knock Shrine.
“In previous years the Shrine would be open from 5am for Confessions. Our first Mass would take place at 6am for people who would traditionally walk to Knock during the previous night and early morning. Masses would continue practically every hour until evening for enormous numbers of people coming from all over the country and beyond. For that day alone over 20,000 people would usually visit the Shrine.”
The Shrine took the decision to postpone the Novena 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 the 15th August.
It was also 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 the 15th August only,” Fr Gibbons said. “This decision was taken after detailed discussions with Church and State bodies. 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.”
The Shrine and grounds will be closed from 8pm on Friday 14th to 7am on Sunday August. Masses will be celebrated online only and behind closed doors at 12, 3pm and 7.30pm.
“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 for the 15th August only,” he siad.
“As the National Marian Shrine, we have been extra vigilant in living up to our responsibilities amid this pandemic in placing 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.”