80,000 pilgrims to descend on Croke ParkBy Seán McCárthaigh - Saturday, June 16, 2012
More than 80,000 pilgrims are due to attend the official closing ceremony of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Croke Park tomorrow.
The organisers of the week-long gathering for Catholics have expressed confidence that the final Mass, entitled Statio Orbis, will attract a near-capacity 82,000-strong crowd.
More than 7,500 visitors from overseas will be among the attendance at the ceremony which will include a recorded video message from Pope Benedict XVI to be shown at the end of the Mass. The event, which is being broadcast by RTÉ, will begin at 1pm and is scheduled to last over four hours.
Supt Kevin Gralton of Mountjoy Garda Station warned those travelling to the ceremony that a wider traffic cordon than normal for major events at Croke Park would be in place.
Special arrangements have been made to allow 250 pre-registered coaches access a drop-off point within the cordon. However, other vehicles will not be allowed beyond the cordon. About 3,100 parking spaces will be available in Clonliffe College via entry on Drumcondra Road. Mass-goers have been advised umbrellas will be banned in Croke Park.
Delegates had to be turned away from a workshops and seminars for capacity reasons yesterday.
Daily attendances at the Congress in the RDS at Ballsbridge have ranged between 10,000 and 15,000 — below original estimates that the average attendance rate would be 20,000 pilgrims.
However, the organisers said crowds in Dublin have been twice the level seen at the Congress in Quebec, Canada, in 2008.
Congress secretary general Fr Kevin Doran expressed satisfaction with attendance levels and said it was very encouraging to see how so many people were interested in learning about so many aspects of their faith.
He claimed such interest sent a message for the Irish Catholic Church to provide more adult faith formation.
He also revealed that the symbolic healing stone — a piece of Wicklow granite inscribed with a prayer composed by a clerical sex abuse survivor — which was unveiled at the opening ceremony is to be moved to a permanent home at St Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg, Co Donegal.
The pilgrimage site was visited by the Pope’s representative at the congress, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, earlier this week where they held a two-hour meeting with a representative group for victims of paedophile priests.
Among yesterday’s speakers was former attorney general and European commissioner Peter Sutherland, who said some attitudes in Europe toward immigrants and Muslims in particular were distressing.
Mr Sutherland, the UN special representative for migration and development, expressed concern that many people regarded Islam as incompatible with European values.
* The organisers of the congress, as well as Cardinal Ouellet, were last night honoured at a reception in Dublin Castle hosted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.