Gardai warn of doomsday scenario for Pope's Knock visit: Crowds may be forced to walk up to 12km unless they forgo cars
GARDAI have warned of a doomsday scenario where those flocking to Knock for the pope’s visit may be forced to walk as much as 12km unless they forgo their cars and take the bus instead.
As many as 91pc of the 45,000 people who have booked tickets to see Pope Francis at Knock have indicated that they will be travelling by car.
However the authorities have said that infrastructure will be unable to cope with a possible 20,000 cars descending on the tiny Mayo village.
At a briefing in Knock today ahead of the event, Superintendent Tom Calvey of Claremorris Garda Station warned that gardaí may be forced to park cars on the N17 if visitors refuse to budge on their travel plans, with the road potentially closed from Claremorris, leaving attendees forced to make the 12 km to the Knock Shrine on foot.
The N17 into the town will be closed from midnight on Saturday night, with restrictions coming into the place around knock village from 6pm on that evening, he said.
“From a garda perspective we'll be encouraging people to travel by coach,” he said.
He warned that there will be no public viewing at Ireland West International airport at Knock and said gardaí will be in possession of lists of passengers and only people on those lists or collecting those people will be given access to the airport, which will operate as normal.
The travel plan for the visit is designed to facilitate those travelling on public transport, and the furthest people travelling by bus will have to walk will be just one kilometre, he pledged.
Fr Richard Gibbons said the message to go out from Knock is “bus, bus, bus.”
“It will get you closer to the shrine than a car will,” he said, asking people to gather at the shrine by 7.30 or 8 am, ahead of initial prayers. The shrine will be open from 4.30 am or 5am, he added.
The pope will arrive at the shrine at 9.45am and will visit the Apparition Chapel, with the congregation joining him in silent prayer as he has his own quiet moment.
He will then give a short address to the people and lead the Angelus, a daily devotion in Ireland for generations.
Pope Francis will depart the Shrine at 10.45am and travel to the airport for immediate transfer to Dublin and mass at the Phoenix Park.
“We expect a wonderful day, we expect wonderful weather, hopefully. The whole point is that people gather in prayer, enjoyment and expectation,” he said.
All 45,000 people at the shrine will see the pope, Fr Gibbons said, with the Holy Father moving through the assembly in the Pope Mobile, arriving at the Apparition Gable towards 10am where he will be met by Fr Gibbons.
Asked if the pope’s one hour visit might be more of a bun fight than a spiritual occasion, Fr Gibbons said that for this reason, mass will immediately be celebrated after the pope’s departure.Music for the occasion of the visit will be provided by Knock Choir and a number of solists, including Sibéal Ní Chasaide and Anne Marie Gibbons.
Sibéal’s performance will include a special arrangement of Ave Maria, written by her father Ódhrán Ó Casaide for the Rededication of Knock Basilica in 2016.
The traffic plan information for the Knock Shrine event is available here