Irish shrines point way forward, says Pope’s adviser
Shrines such as Knock and Lough Derg can lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland, the Pope’s leading adviser on evangelisation has said. It comes as the number of pilgrims at both Knock and Lough Derg are up on previous years.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella – who was in Ireland to speak at the annual novena at Knock Shrine in Co. Mayo – warned that the Church must not limit evangelisation to parishes and insisted that Catholics must embrace new ways of doing things.
He was speaking as The Irish Catholic confirmed that numbers of pilgrims and visitors are up at both Knock and at Lough Derg in Co. Donegal.
Fr La Flynn of Lough Derg told this newspaper that after a decade of decline, “we held firm with our numbers from last year and actually increased by a few score”.
It was a similar situation at Knock where Fr Richard Gibbons confirmed that “at this stage the numbers are up from last year definitely
“This year the numbers have been very, very good,” he said.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 young people attended the annual Youth 2000 summer festival in Co. Kildare.
Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, said: “It is true that in many countries our parishes, churches are with few people, it is true. But if you go to the shrines, they are full, full, full of people, that means something.
“It means that probably the way of the new evangelisation cannot be limited only to the parish,” he said.
The archbishop said that “the parish remains a concrete site of the presence of the Church where there is the daily life of people. But that cannot be exclusive, in order to understand the new evangelisation, we should have eyes open to check a concrete, positive response to the new evangelisation.”
At Lough Derg, Fr Flynn said that he was “pleased to share my sense that the three-day pilgrimage season which ended last Thursday, August 15, was filled with grace and fruitfulness on so many levels.
“Included in this is a small sign of hope in terms of our pilgrim numbers. After a decade of declining numbers – not dramatically, but steadily from year to year – we held firm with our numbers from last year and actually increased by a few score”.
He added that “perhaps Lough Derg is beginning to shed some of the darker narrative about what people may expect when they come here. This is being replaced with the message of compassion and of welcome to one and all that this living place of pilgrimage offers in today’s changing culture and sometimes overwhelming digital world.”
At Knock, Fr Gibbons said “the numbers were excellent on August 15 – the best we’ve had in few years, the Mass at 3pm was jammed”.
He described the family day of the novena as “massively uplifting”.
“The Shrine has come a long way especially for young families, families can come and parents can leave their children off at the centre and they know they’re taken care of very well and people are getting to realise that more and more.
“Children don’t want to do everything the parents do and the parents don’t want to do everything the children want to do, we have a facility for that and that appeals to everybody,” Fr Gibbons said.