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Mon, Oct
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Knock Novena postponed due to Covid-19

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GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT AT POSTPONEMENT Fr Richard Gibbons, Knock Shrine. Pic: Keith Heneghan

Michael Commins

THE annual National Novena to Our Lady of Knock has been postponed due to the continued Government guidelines in relation to crowd numbers brought about by the coronavirus. The Novena began under the guidance of Msgr James Horan back in August 1977, soon after the completion of the Basilica and two years before the visit of Pope John Paul 11.
The Novena attracts well over 100,000 people over the nine days from August 14 to 22 and has provided a huge economic boost to the region over the last four decades. All accommodation for miles around is usually booked out well in advance of the Novena.
The decision to postpone the Novena was announced on Friday last by Fr Richard Gibbons, PP, and Rector of Knock Shrine. He said the decision would cause disappointment to pilgrims and would also have economic consequences for the region.
“Having discussed at length the logistics, health and safety of organising the Novena, it is with heavy hearts that we have decided to postpone it.  After careful assessment of all aspects in line with current government guidelines, we feel that this is the right thing to do.
“This has been a very difficult decision that will cause a great deal of disappointment to pilgrims. It also has economic consequences for the wider community and the Shrine itself. However, the health and safety of our parishioners, pilgrims, priests, staff and volunteers is of paramount importance to us at this worrying time.
“As the Shrine has gradually reopened for Mass in recent weeks, we have successfully and safely restricted capacity for Masses. Even though the Shrine grounds cover over 100 acres, it would be impossible to control in a safe manner large outdoor gatherings which would undoubtedly come for the Novena,” stated Fr Richard.  
While the Novena is postponed, the Shrine will remain open to welcome individuals and family groups and will continue to offer daily Masses in Knock Basilica at 12 noon, 3pm and 7.30pm with restricted capacity and on a first-come, first-served basis. A Sunday evening Mass at 7.30pm has also been added to the schedule.
Pilgrims may avail of Confession in the Chapel of Reconciliation. The Parish Church is available for private prayer and pilgrims can light candles. In all these locations strict queuing and social distancing measures apply.
“During lockdown, Knock Shrine was at the forefront in reaching out to people online by the streaming of daily masses via our website and Facebook page. Pilgrims were invited to place a petition or light a candle while they were unable to visit their local churches.
“We realised the huge importance of our online services during lockdown and what it meant to people to be able to connect with us each day. Our online services will continue to play an important role in enabling us to stay connected with our pilgrims.
“It is with great disappointment that we have to postpone the highlight of the annual pilgrimage season at Knock Shrine. I take this opportunity to encourage the people of Ireland and beyond to pray the Novena prayer in their own homes and parishes for the month of August so that we may be united in prayer.
“The Novena prayer can be found on our website. The proposed theme for this year’s Novena was ‘Faith in changing times’. Here at Knock Shrine, as we respond to the present challenges of the coronavirus, we continue to pray with you and for you as we look forward with faith and hope to brighter days ahead,” said Fr Richard.