First transatlantic pilgrimage flight arrives in Knock
New ground in pilgrimage traffic to Ireland was broken on Sunday when an Aer Lingus flight from New York with 180 passengers on board touched down at Ireland West Airport Knock.
The group, most of whom have never been to Ireland before, was led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, one of the welcoming dignitaries, drew laughter when, gesturing to the wet conditions outside, told pilgrims “they were being bathed in the soft waters of baptism in the west of Ireland”.
Mr Kenny said the day was one of exceptional importance not just for Knock but the whole of Ireland.
“There is no reason why Knock cannot take its places on the pedestal of the most important shrines of the world such as Lourdes and Fatima,” he said.
Welcoming the pilgrims, the Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary described it as an absolutely wonderful occasion.
“This pilgrimage reminds us of the role New York has played in welcoming our people in very difficult times indeed. The pilgrimage is testament to the tenacity of faith in our culture today”.
Knock Airport chairman Joe Kennedy, who had flown out to New York in order to fly back to Ireland with the pilgrims, described the occasion as one of the happiest days of his life.
“It is a miracle, a dream come true, hopefully there will be many more days like this,” he said.
Cardinal Dolan, who was invited by Knock parish priest Fr Richard Gibbons, to lead a pilgrimage to Co Mayo, spoke briefly at the welcoming reception. “Lord, it is good to be here,” he said simply.
Two members of the New York-based Franciscan Sisters of Renewal, Sister Maria Terese and Sister Frances, were amongst those queueing for breakfasts.
“We don’t know much about Knock,” Sr Maria confessed. “It sounds a wonderful, holy, place”.
She explained: “We were invited by Cardinal Dolan. He is very fatherly, a wonderful, holy person.”
Husband and wife Dr Steve Pavela and his wife, Jeanne, and Jeane Pavela travelled from Wisconsin in the American heartland.
“This trip has a nice friendly, feel to it,” Dr Steve said.
His wife Jeane interrupted: “We feel very important. Just imagine, the prime minister of Ireland has come out to welcome us.”
The welcoming party at Knock included the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal John Brown.
Following the airport reception, the pilgrimage party was ferried in a fleet of coaches to Knock Basilica for a special Mass of welcome.
Reporting courtesy Irish Times