Thousands of people are expected to gather at Knock Shrine on the eve of World Peace Day - next Saturday September 20 - to express their solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria.
A United Nations flag is to be flown at full mast outside the Basilica for the 3pm Mass and a number of local groups are planning to walk to the Shrine from surrounding towns and villages in a symbolic gesture to those who have been displaced in Iraq.
The Mass will also be broadcast live on the Shrine’s website.
Christian communities, who have lived in Iraq and Syria since the foundation of the faith 2,000 years ago, are being persecuted under the rapid advance of a fundamentalist group called the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
A statement circulated by Knock Shrine yesterday (Thursday ) explained the Mass has been organised in response to “images and footage [which] have permeated the media in recent weeks highlighting the brutality and violence which is being exercised toward Christians whose only crime is their faith.
“Hundreds and thousands have had no choice but to flee their homes, while many of those who could not escape were offered the impossible choice of converting to Islam or face certain death,” continued the statement.
Fr Richard Gibbons, rector, Knock Shrine, said those in attendance at Saturday’s Mass will pray for “an end to the suffering and pain of Christians in Iraq and Syria”.
The Mass will also be dedicated to all people across the globe who are suffering religious persecution.
“At Knock Shrine, we feel it is incumbent upon us to stand in solidarity with those who suffer, to support and comfort them through prayer, and to profess that they are not alone,” said Fr Gibbons.
“It is our hope that all who gather for this Mass, though appalled and saddened by these events, will have the opportunity to share in this movement of prayer and through their generosity, a trait so sincerely held by the Irish, provide tangible support for Iraq’s persecuted Christians.”
For more information, visit www.knock-shrine.ie