Papal visit: Pope Francis travels to Knock Shrine

Pope Francis has begun the second day of his historic trip to the Republic of Ireland at the Knock Marian shrine in County Mayo.

On Sunday morning, the pontiff flew from Dublin to Knock for his visit to the pilgrimage site.

In the afternoon, 500,000 people are expected to gather in Phoenix Park in Dublin for the closing Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families.

It is the first papal visit to Ireland in 39 years.

This year’s visit coincides with the World Meeting of Families, a global Catholic gathering which is held every three years.

The Marian shrine of Knock is a well-known place of Catholic pilgrimage in the west of Ireland.

About 1.5 million pilgrims from across the world visit it every year, where an apparition of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is said to have appeared in August 1879.

Pope John Paul II visited the shrine on the last papal tour of Ireland in 1979.

‘Repellent crimes’

During the first day of the trip, Pope Francis said he was ashamed of the Catholic Church’s failure to adequately address the “repellent crimes” of sex abuse by clergy.

He made the comments during a speech at Dublin Castle.

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Later in the afternoon he met eight survivors of sexual abuse, reportedly telling them he viewed clerical sex abuse as “filth”.

It came after Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar delivered a strong warning to the Pope to take action against clergy involved in child abuse and in keeping it secret.

Pilgrims brave rain

By Nuala McCann, BBC News NI

It’s a dark and grim morning in County Mayo but by 05:30, there was a steady stream of car headlights headed for Knock shrine.

“Rain before seven, done by 11,” says one local man.

Small consolation for the thousands of pilgrims waiting for Pope Francis.

His plane is due to touch down at 09:20 at Knock airport and half an hour later he will arrive at the shrine, visit the chapel and say the angelus with the gathered crowds.

Perhaps the rain will ease off for him.

Read more: Why is Pope Francis visiting Knock shrine?

On Saturday evening, he presided over a Festival of Families concert in Dublin’s Croke Park stadium, which drew a crowd of about 80,000 people.

The world-renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli, country singer Nathan Carter and acclaimed Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell were among those who performed.

The Ireland that the Pope is visiting is a different country to that which greeted Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Since the Polish pope’s visit, there have been huge changes in public attitudes to social issues including abortion, contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage.

The country voted for constitutional change on same sex-marriage in 2015 and voted overwhelmingly to overturn its strict abortion law in May.

Pope Francis heard Mr Varadkar, a gay man, speak out against the traditional Catholic teaching on the family.

The taoiseach said that the Republic of Ireland had modernised its laws, “understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions and that families come in many forms” – including those headed by a lone parent, same-sex parents or parents who are divorced and remarried.

Pope Francis arrived by plane at Knock at about 09:45 local time and will spend about an hour there.

He will then travel through the crowds in the popemobile before going into the chapel to pray privately.

Knock was also visited by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ireland in 1979.

Papal visit to Ireland: Itinerary highlights

Sunday 26 August

  • 08:40 – Departure by plane for Knock
  • 09:45 – Arrival at Knock shrine for visit to the Apparition Chapel and recitation of the Angelus
  • 11:15 – Departure by plane for Dublin
  • 12:30 – Lunch with the Papal Delegation
  • 15:00 – Closing Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park
  • 18:30 – Farewell ceremony at Dublin Airport
  • 18:45 – Departure for Rome
  • 23:00 – Arrival in Rome

You can follow minute-by-minute updates on the Pope’s visit here on the BBC News website.

Switch on for Sunday’s BBC Newsline showing highlights from the visit at 22:30 BST.

On BBC Radio Ulster, join Seamus McKee for a special extended The Sunday News at 13:00.

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