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170 Boston pilgrims land at airport


FAMILY AFFAIR?For Knock Shrine’s Parish Priest Fr Richard Gibbons and his sister Aine, the arrival of Ireland West Airport’s first transatlantic flight from Boston was a special day for the family. Senior Aer Lingus Cabin crew member Aine, pictured with her daughter Eva and husband Ronan O’Reilly, hosted the 179 pilgrims led by Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley during their visit to the shrine and it’s Basilica Rededication. Included with the Cardinal and the Gibbons’ family on their arrival is Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary.?Pic: Henry Wills 

170 Boston pilgrims land at airport

Michael Commins

THE Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, was the chief celebrant and speaker at the ceremonies to mark the 40 year re-dedication of Knock Basilica last Saturday afternoon.
A day earlier, the Cardinal led the first official chartered pilgrimage from Boston to Ireland’s National Marian Shrine as the Aer Lingus 757 plane landed at Knock Airport carrying over 170 passengers from various places across the USA.
Both pilots on the flight were native Mayo men, Brendan Sweeney and Fionán O Héalai, while the cabin crew on the flight included Áine Reilly (sister of Fr Richard Gibbons, Rector, Knock Shrine) and Hilary Horkan, also from Mayo.
The Boston pilgrimage group, who are spending six days visiting various regions of Ireland, were all present for the re-dedication of Knock Shrine. 
Cardinal O’Malley said he was delighted to be associated with this historic trip and venture and also to be asked to preside at the con-celebrated Mass to mark the re-dedication of the Basilica which was opened in 1976.
During his address to the congregation on Saturday, he recalled the huge bonds between Ireland and America and how these have passed from generation to generation. He said Irish Americans are intensely proud of their shared Irish heritage.
The current Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, whose parents hail from Connemara and who was due to travel with the group to Knock, was unable to make the trip because of pressing demands.
Instead, the former Mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn, who served three terms from 1984 to 1993, was on board and is accompanying the group during their Irish visit.
Mr Flynn was appointed United States Ambassador to the Holy See (1993–1997) by President Bill Clinton. His grandparents were from Connemara and Cork.
Fr Richard Gibbons, PP, and Rector of Knock Shrine, welcomed the Boston entourage at both the airport and the Basilica. He also extended a warm welcome to the many other pilgrims who had come along for the special ceremony.
“Once inside the newly refurbished Basilica, one cannot help but find oneself drawn into the heavenly beauty of the silent Apparition of 1879 as depicted in the wonderful mosaic. We become part of the shared experience of witness to faith, witness to the hope brought to the people of Knock on that fateful Thursday, August 21, 1879,” said Fr Richard.
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, and several other clergy from all over the country and further afield, were presented for the concelebrated Mass. Also on the altar was Fr Patrick Burke who has served at Knock Parish and Shrine for the last few years and who takes up his new appointment in Westport this week.
The Knock Choirs, with soloist and director of music, Una Nolan, performed at the Mass of Re-dedication. The Basilica was resplendent with beautiful arrays of flowers adding to the peace, calm and tranquillity of the occasion.
Knock put its best foot forward on this special with the Irish, American, Mayo and Papal flags flying high at the round-about and the grounds of the Shrine in immaculate condition as nature unfurled its majesty beneath a gentle western summer sky.