Images of US President Joe Biden's visit at Knock Shrine
US President Joe Biden made a private visit to Knock Shrine today during his visit to Mayo.
During the course of his time there, he touched part of the gable wall of the original church where the apparition occurred in 1879.
He also met Knock chaplain, Fr. Frank O'Grady, who gave the last rites to President Biden's son, Beau, when he died from cancer a number of years ago.
Fr. Richard Gibbons, PP, Knock, said it was a very emotional moment for the president.
He told RTÉ News: "He laughed, he cried. It just kind of hit the man. You could see just how deeply it all felt and meant to him."
Fr. Gibbons added: "It was an extraordinary afternoon. I won't forget it."
President Biden had some time of quiet reflection in the Apparition Chapel.
A press release issued by Knock Shrine stated: "It was a historic day for Knock Shrine and village this afternoon when President of the United States Joe Biden arrived at the grounds of Knock Shrine.
The President had travelled to the west of Ireland from Dublin via Ireland West Airport- Knock as the first United States president to be welcomed into the airport and village.
"From the airport, the President travelled to Knock Shrine via Presidential Motorcade, where he received a warm welcome from the crowd that had gathered to wave and cheer.
"The road into Knock was awash with American flags and bunting, with the blue sky and sunshine adding to the happy atmosphere.
"President Joe Biden was greeted and welcomed into the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland by Fr Richard Gibbons, PP and Rector and Mr. John Conroy, manager of Knock Shrine.
"Here, he was given the opportunity to view the much-loved Apparition Mosaic at Knock Basilica, a stunning representation of the Apparition scene as it was described by the fifteen official witnesses who gave testimonies shortly after the event had taken place on 21st August, 1879.
"The Mosaic is comprised of over 1.5 million pieces of tesserae mosaic pieces in vibrant colours.
"At the sanctuary of the Basilica, the President had the opportunity to pause and reflect on the Mosaic while Fr Richard Gibbons explained the unique story and history of Knock.
"President Joe Biden's Irish ancestry has been well documented, and he has always been proud of his roots in County Mayo, Ireland. He has often spoken fondly of his Irish heritage and has made several visits to Ireland throughout his political career.
"The apparition took place during a time of great uncertainly in Ireland.
"In August 1879, conflict erupted over land and landownership as the threat of another famine loomed. It was in this context that the Apparition was seen by 15 ordinary people, young and old.
"The witnesses’ original testimonies are housed in the archives of Knock Museum and copies are available for the public to read online and in the museum collection.
After his visit to the Basilica, the President was accompanied by Fr Richard to make the short walk over to the Apparition Chapel, the sacred site where the Apparition took place in 1879.
"This was a private moment for the President who was presented with a simple prayer candle to light, decorated with the Fleur de Lis, a symbol of Our Lady.
"Fr Richard led prayer with a decade of the Rosary.
"The President was then given time alone to reflect for in the peace of the Apparition Chapel.
"Just before departing, Fr Richard presented President Joe Biden with a very special gift of a piece of the original stone from the gable wall at Knock Shrine.
"President Biden also took time to meet with Fr Frank O’Grady, a retired priest who is living in Knock and the former USA Army Chaplain at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Maryland, the place where the President’s son, Beau Biden spent the last weeks of his life.
"Beau Biden passed away in 2015 and Fr O’Grady gave him the last rites.
"Fr O’Grady received two medals as a gift from the president – Presidential Medal and the souvenir medal of the President’s visit to Ireland.
"For years, pilgrims have paused to pray at the stone, a portion of which was placed outside the Apparition Chapel.
"The stone has played an important role in the experience of visiting pilgrims and also in shaping the unique history of the Shrine.
"Like so many others before him, President Joe Biden came to Knock Shrine as a pilgrim to pray and experience the unique peace of the Apparition Chapel and to see the scene of the Holy Family - Our Lady, St. Joseph, St John the Evangelist and the Lamb before a Cross."
The press photographers present captured some lovely images of the occasion.