The following is taken from Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley’s online blog, which is also published in The Pilot, the archdiocese’s weekly newspaper.
The Knock airport was established 30 years ago by the rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, and is now one of the most important airports in Ireland serving the Western part of the country.
“With us on the trip was Ambassador Raymond Flynn and his wife Kathy representing the city of Boston, since Mayor Marty Walsh was unable to be with us. With us as well was the “Lord Mayor of West Roxbury,” Richie Gormley.
“When we arrived in Knock, we were met by the very impressive delegation of the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary; Sir Joseph Kennedy, the chairperson of the board of directors of the airport who is a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory and was in full uniform with plumes and sword; Father Richard Gibbons, the rector of the Knock Shrine; and Al McDonnell, the Cathaoirleach of the Mayo County Council.
“From the airport we went to the shrine, where the next day I had an interview with Irish television followed by the Mass of rededication of the shrine. The crowd was most impressive. The shrine, which I believe holds about 5,000 people, was completely filled. On top of that, it was just a beautiful day for the celebration ... clear, bright and sunny.
“Practically every bishop in Ireland was there, along with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as well as representatives of the different Catholic associations and organizations.
“It was a very beautiful ceremony of rededication of the basilica, in which we consecrated the altar and the walls. The shrine has undergone extensive renovations, including a beautiful mosaic which is one of the largest in Europe. It depicts the apparition of the Blessed Mother with St. Joseph, St. John, and the lamb with a cross on the altar.
“The apparition took place in August 1879. 15 witnesses saw the apparition and, a few months later, they all gave sworn testimonies to a commission of inquiry. At the end of the Mass 15 people dressed in period clothes representing those witnesses carried candles and processed to the altar.
“Of course, we concluded with the singing of the beautiful hymn to Our Lady of Knock, which is so popular with Irish Americans. (We sang it at my father’s funeral and we sing it every year on St. Patrick’s Day at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross).”