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Safety and salvation - the linked Reek Sunday message

Safety and salvation – Reek Sunday message for pilgrims

Áine Ryan

REEK SUNDAY. The simple term reverberates deeply in this country’s spiritual psyche. A pyramidal mountain, whose epic story stretches back 5,000 years to Neolithic man. Next Sunday, July 25, up to 30,000 people will climb Croagh Patrick. Young and old, barefooted and booted, Irish and American, Chinese and African, Catholic and Agnostic will mingle in this colourful cultural and deeply religious experience.
From early morning (8am) Masses will  be said in the tiny oratory built over 100 years ago by local men from the village of Murrisk. Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary will lead the 10.30am Mass, with Masses said every half hour until 2.30pm.
At 8.30am also pilgrims will set out from historic Ballintubber Abbey along the ancient chariot route, the Tóchar Phádraig, to climb the holy mountain from the other side.
Crucially, while spiritual salvation is the primary quest of the day, Mayo Mountain Rescue Team last week expressed concerns about safety aspects. The organisation has called for safety work to be carried out on the mountain due to the number of accidents that occur.
The rescue team will be on hand, with Mayo Civil Defence, the Order of Malta and the Air Corps over next weekend’s busy pilgrimage. 
The team, which responds to about 50 emergency calls to the mountain annually, states it has now identified an accident black spot, on the final ascent of its conical peak. Apparently, the increased number of climbers, all year round, has caused significant erosion at this point.
In a statement, Colm Byrne said most of the accidents, which occur along this stretch of mountain, could be avoided if some safety maintenance was carried out.
Mayo Mountain Rescue Team has also advised those intending to climb the mountain to bring along clothing suitable for winter conditions, wear proper footwear and to carry adequate food and drink. They urge people to take extra care during the – in places – treacherous descent and, moreover, to use sticks or walking poles.
“It is very unsafe to carry children down the summit cone, especially on your shoulders. It will take all your efforts to prevent yourself from falling,” Mr Byrne also stated.
Meanwhile Mayo County Council’s Road Officer, Noel Gibbons, has urged motorists to travel carefully over the weekend.
“Huge numbers travel to Murrisk to climb Croagh Patrick each ReekSunday, and we will be running a major road safety awareness campaign on the day,” Mr Gibbons said.
Reek Sunday Masses
Saturday, July 24: Archbishop Michael Neary will celebrate the vigil Mass at 6.30pm in St Mary’s Church, Westport.
Sunday, July 25:  First Mass in the oratory on the summit at 8am. Then every half-hour until 2pm. Mass at 10am will be in Irish. Mass at 10.30am will be celebrated by Archbishop Michael Neary. Confessions will be heard continuously from 7.30am until 2.30pm. Reek Sunday Masses in Westport are at 10.30am and 12 midday.

For further information on the Tóchar Phádraig pilgrimage phone Ballintubber Abbey office at 094 9030934.