The inaugural Aer Lingus flight from JFK to Ireland West Airport Knock will carry 178 pilgrims, including the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Cardinal Dolan will officially launch the 2015 National Novena in Knock on August 14. The event is expected to attract up to 150,000 people over nine days.
Ireland West Airport Knock chairman Joe Kennedy said the arrival of the pilgrims from New York marked the return of transatlantic flights to the west of Ireland after an absence of eight years: “We hope this is an important stepping stone in securing regular transatlantic services for the region and we look forward to welcoming our US visitors to the West of Ireland in 2015.”
The airport caters for about 700,000 passengers annually and it is worth about €130m to the local economy. Cardinal Dolan said: “It will be an honour for me for me to travel to the west of Ireland and open Ireland’s National Public Novena on August 14, with mass in the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, in Knock.”.
Following their arrival in Knock, the pilgrimage party will travel to Knock Shrine where mass will be celebrated in the refurbished basilica. The event will be broadcast live on RTÉ 1.
The transatlantic pilgrimage flight from New York will be a culmination of two years of planning as part of Knock Shrine’s “Witness of Hope” initiative, which is aimed at promoting the shrine at home and abroad.
Fr Richard Gibbons, parish priest and rector of Knock Shrine, said everyone in Knock was looking forward to the arrival of the New York pilgrims.
The pilgrimage party will be based in Westport and their Irish itinerary also includes visits to the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara.