ALL SET Fr Richard Gibbons is pictured at Knock Shrine last week.
“IT’S not going to be that the Pope is going to come and sprinkle fairy dust around the place and hey presto we’re back again, no, it’s hard graft and work here.” That was the opinion of Knock parish priest Fr Richard Gibbons when asked if the Pope’s visit would re-energise and renew mass-goers within the Catholic Church.
Speaking at a media briefing at Knock House Hotel ahead of Pope Francis visit to Knock Shrine on August 26, Fr Gibbons said renewal work was already taking place in Knock and his hope for the Pontiff’s visit was for this work to be communicated nationally and internationally.
“Knock is actually thriving, our numbers are wonderful. Our renewal programmes off season are incredible. We’re booked out here at weekends, be it art, retreats, music. We hope we’ll get that communicated across, that there are things to do here for families.”
The parish priest described it as ‘an extremely exciting time in Knock’ and said everyone is pulling together and waiting for the day to happen.
Working closely with various state bodies including the OPW, An Garda Síochána and the HSE, Fr Gibbons said there is ‘great camaraderie’.
The parish priest said the Pope would ‘maybe’ address the issue of abuse within the Catholic Church, whether he communicated this in Knock or in Dublin. He added that, though people were unsure what His Holiness would be communicating, he said it would be ‘something significant’.
Asked if the day would be rushed and not be one of the intended ‘spiritual’ feeling, the priest said the ‘gathering ceremony’ before the Pope’s arrival would ensure it would be.
“Before he comes we have the gathering celebration ceremony which will involve getting people into the correct spiritual sense, joyful spiritual sense and that’s why after he leaves we have an immediate public mass. It’s an enriching day from one end to the other,” explained Fr Gibbons.
Asked if there was any possibility that people at the Shrine would not get to see the Pope, like 1979 when Pope John Paul II did not travel through the area due to the late evening, Fr Gibbons assured this would not be the case.
“There is no doubt he will go through the people, absolutely every one of the 45,000 people will get to see him. It’s not that if you’re coming to Knock you might see him in the distance, that’s not the case, he will go right throughout the Shrine.”
And finally Fr Gibbons appealed to those attending to use public transport on the day.
“We urge everyone to use coaches, it’s bus, bus, bus. It will get you closer, it will get you right into the Shrine itself, and we would urge parishes and community groups to combine and travel together.”