By Marian Duggan
About 75,000 people tuned into online weekend masses at Knock Shrine recently.
Shrine rector Fr Richard Gibbons said the numbers turning to religion in these testing times is “difficult to quantify” but the online viewing figures for Knock Shrine have been “extraordinary”.
“Last weekend we had 75,000 people tune in for the three main masses — the vigil mass and two on Sunday.”
People from Minnesota, Texas, and the Philippines were among the worshippers with Knock parishioners also tuning in.
“We would love those numbers to transfer to people in the church when we return to normal,” said Fr Gibbons who conceded that Pope Francis’s visit to Knock and the Shrine’s trip to Rome this year played a role in getting the news of Knock Shrine around the world.
“People attach importance to the Shrine in particular. We have a very good online presence; a huge amount of work went into the infrastructure with a new website, webcams and online capabilities for petitions and the lighting of candles. Every candle is physically lit at the Shrine and the huge number of petitions are prayed for at masses every day. “
In Ballyhaunis, Fr Stephen Farragher is broadcasting mass and the Rosary on the parish webcam and radio. He’s also a familiar voice on Midwest Radio with mass every Wednesday and Friday mornings after listeners called for more than just the regular Sunday morning broadcast.
“Covid-19 has stopped us in our tracks and made us more reflective,” he said. “In spiritual terms, we’ve entered the ‘desert experience’ where our normal crutches such as sport, socialising, shopping — except for the essentials — are removed from us. We’ve become more conscious of our fragility and vulnerability. Covid-19 has forced us to look at our priorities, the importance of relationships with one another, with our planet and with god. People of faith do turn to god at this time.
“People feel deprived at not being able to attend mass so many have expressed their appreciation of being able to link in via parish and local radio and webcam.”
On Wednesday last, the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, Archbishop Eamon Martin prayed with the people of Ireland for strength and protection from the coronavirus. He said that social distancing cannot be allowed to create social isolation and that people could overcome these trying times through prayer.