Wednesday 20 February 2019

Pilgrims urged to use public transport - or walk 12km to see Pope

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Gardai have warned of a potential disaster for the elderly and infirm, who may be forced to walk 12km to Knock Shrine for the Pope's visit if ticket holders do not leave their cars and take public transport.

Roadblocks in the small Co Mayo village have already been erected and are being manned around the clock by gardai.

Supt Tom Calvey, of Claremorris Garda Station, said he was not aware of any measures being taken to prevent people from camping out ahead of the event.

He added that whether people chose to camp out is "not a garda matter".

As many as 91pc of the 45,000 people who have obtained tickets to see Pope Francis at Knock on August 26 have indicated they will be travelling there by car.

However, authorities have warned that the infrastructure will struggle to cope with around 20,000 vehicles.


Supt Calvey said gardai may be forced to park cars on the N17 if visitors refused to budge on their travel plans, with the road potentially closed from Claremorris.

That would leave attendees - including the elderly, the infirm and children - forced to walk the 12km to the shrine.

"This is the worst case scenario, I don't think it will come to that," said Supt Calvey, adding that he believed people would see the sense of taking the bus and amend their travel plans accordingly.

The N17 into the town will be closed from midnight on the Saturday (August 25), with restrictions coming into place around Knock village from 6pm that evening.

"From a garda perspective we'll be encouraging people to travel by coach," said Supt Calvey, adding that the greatest distance people travelling by bus will have to walk will be one kilometre.

Fr Richard Gibbons, the rector of Knock Shrine, asked people to gather by 7.30am or 8am on the Sunday, ahead of initial prayers.

The shrine will be open from 4.30am or 5am.

Pope Francis will arrive at 9.45am by Popemobile and will visit the Apparition Chapel before giving a short address.

He will lead the Angelus before departing at 10.45am for Mass at the Phoenix Park.

"We expect a wonderful day, we expect wonderful weather. The whole point is that people will gather in prayer, enjoyment and expectation," Fr Gibbons said.

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