Ireland: Knock Shrine joins Pope Francis for Act of Consecration
By Lydia O’Kane
This Friday, 25 March, Pope Francis consecrates Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in St Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope invited the bishops of the whole world, priests, laypeople, and Marian shrines to accompany him in the Act of Consecration.
Heeding this call is the International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine at Knock in the west of Ireland, which joins him on Friday to raise this heartfelt prayer to Our Lady.
Fr Richard Gibbons, who is Parish Priest and Rector of the Knock Shrine will perform this solemn Act of Consecration during evening Mass.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Fr Gibbons said his first reaction to the announcement by Pope Francis was one of curiosity, as he thought that Russia had been consecrated before.
After receiving more details about Friday’s solemn celebration, Fr Gibbons said he realized that Pope Francis “was doing something in particular in terms of consecrating, I think it is now consecrating humanity, Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Participation of Knock Shrine
Asked about the participation of Knock Shrine on Friday evening, Fr Gibbons explained they are going to have the Act of Consecration in the parish church where the Marian apparition took place over 140 years ago.
The story of the apparition is a unique one. On 21 August 1879, fifteen people in the village of Knock watched for two hours in the pouring rain as Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and a cross on an altar appeared to them at the gable wall of the Parish Church.
“Present in the sanctuary will be the new processional statue of Our Lady of Knock which Pope Francis blessed himself, and which took part in the first Sunday of the Word of God in Rome,” said the rector.
The power of prayer
Since the invasion of Russia began a month ago, prayers have been said daily at the shrine for peace in Ukraine.
“Prayer can do an awful lot, and we can see that here at the shrine at Knock; so it is helping people to understand and not to give up hope, and always pray for people in these situations that eventually good will come in some way, shape or form,” said the parish priest.
Charity and solidarity
Over the last month, there has been an outpouring of solidarity and generosity all over Ireland for the people of Ukraine, some of whom have arrived in the country escaping from bombardments of their towns and cities.
A number of refugees have already arrived in Fr Gibbons parish and are being hosted by families in the area.
“Your heart goes out to all these people,” said the parish priest. Their whole way of life has been disrupted and their homes destroyed, “so there’s a natural inbuilt instinct in people to help, and we see this here in the parish of Knock.
As the crisis in Ukraine continues, the shrine itself is already making available a facility that is being offered to the Irish Red Cross for any Ukrainian family that wishes to avail of it.