Cardinal Timothy Dolan
By Ray O’Hanlon
New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan steps into the role of head pilgrim this weekend when he leads as many as 200 fellow pilgrims to the Knock Marian Shrine in County Mayo.
And the pilgrims will be making their east bound journey on an Aer Lingus plane which will make the airline’s first flight from New York’s JFK to Knock airport, referred to more often these days as Ireland West Airport.
“This is significant. It’s a big breakthrough,” said New York radio broadcaster Adrian Flannelly.
“It is significant because the cardinal is not just flying in to say Mass but is staying with the pilgrims for the entire nine days,” Flannelly said.
Also flying will be New York attorney and immigration reform advocate, Brian O’Dwyer.
For both Flannelly and O’Dwyer it will be a homecoming.
Flannelly is a Mayo native and O’Dwyer a first generation American with family roots in the county who acts as an ambassador for Mayo in the U.S.
Flannelly said that in addition to the purely religious aspects of the journey, Cardinal Dolan will be taking time to see something of Ireland, not least portions of the Wild Atlantic Way.
In that regard, he said, the pilgrimage would serve to cast light on the West of Ireland and its many attractions.
“It’s very exciting,” Flannelly said of the pilgrimage.
Cardinal Dolan will open this year’s national novena at Knock on Friday, August 14 with Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of Ireland.
The pilgrims will return to New York two days later.
In addition to the Aer Lingus flight being a first, the visit will also be the first official chartered pilgrimage to Ireland’s national Marian shrine from anywhere and the first diocesan pilgrimage from the archdiocese of New York to the Marian shrine.
The parish priest at Knock, Fr. Richard Gibbons, described the announcement of the New York pilgrimage as “a very important and historic step for the promotion of Knock,” the Irish Times reported.
He said that Ireland West Airport was built specifically to welcome pilgrims to Knock Shrine, as well as to develop the economic life of the West. “Monsignor James Horan, I’m sure, would be very proud,” he said of the onetime parish priest of Knock whose vision of an international airport, when it became real, was seen by many as being little short of miraculous.
Pope John Paul II, Now Saint John Paul, dedication the Knock Basilica during his 1979 visit to Ireland.
“Knock Shrine holds a special place in the hearts of our diaspora and, in the Catholic tradition, pilgrimage plays a significant role in renewing people’s faith and we are delighted to facilitate that,” Father Gibbons said.
During the pilgrimage, Cardinal Dolan will say Mass in the Chapel of the Apparition on Sunday August 9.
He will celebrate a morning liturgy the following day in Lough Derg, an island sanctuary dedicated to St. Patrick that the pilgrims will reach by boat.
August 11 and 12 will feature stops at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare and the Lakes of Killarney in Kerry.
Cardinal Dolan will celebrate Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney.
On August 13, pilgrims will undertake a day trip to the Dingle Peninsula that will feature an outdoor liturgy at a Mass Rock site.
The centerpiece of the pilgrimage, the Mass that will open the national novena, will take place the following day.