The first ever transatlantic flight operated by Aer Lingus into Ireland West Airport Knock was announced this morning at a press conference in Knock House Hotel.
Fr Richard Gibbons, PP and Rector at Knock Shrine, said today that 2015 will see the first ever official chartered pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of New York arrive into Knock airport on August 8.
Fr Gibbons said it is hoped the chartered pilgrimage flight will be first step towards establishing commercial flights between IWAK and New York and other Amercian cities.
Bringing the pilgrimage from New York directly into Knock has been two years in the planning.
The idea was formed following a meeting between Fr Gibbons and the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan.
Cardinal Dolan will lead the pilgrimage, which will also visit other major sites of religious significance throughout the region as well as experiencing the National Novena in Knock, which attracts 150,000 pilgrims to the hill top Marian Shrine over nine days.
There are an estimated 2.8 million Catholics living in New York City. Packages for the pilgrimage to Knock are now on sale with a leading New York pilgrimage tour operator.
Chairman of IWAK, Joe Kennedy, described the announcement as "a dream come true".
"We hope this is an important stepping stone in securing regular transatlantic services for the region into the future and we look forward to welcoming our US visitors to the west of Ireland in 2015," said Mr Kennedy.
"This is a very important and historic step for the promotion of Knock, Ireland's National Marian Shrine, at home and abroad," outlined Fr Gibbons.
"It is hugely significant that the Archdiocese of New York, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is deepening its relationship with Knock Shrine and highlighting the spiritual heritage of Irish Amercians, especially in New York.
"It is also important to note that Ireland West Airport Knock was built specifically to welcome pilgrims to Knock Shrine as well as to develop the economic life of the west. Monsignor James Horan, I'm sure, would be very proud," added Fr Gibbons.