Despite Archbishop Mike Neary's recent warning that alleged apparitions at the Shrine of Knock risk “misleading God's people and undermining the faith,” crowds of people swarmed the shrine on Saturday Oct. 31. Close to 10,000 people from all over Ireland came to the shrine in hopes of seeing an apparition of Mary which was predicted by self-proclaimed visionary Joe Coleman.
Pat Lavelle, manager of the Shrine of Knock, explained how the situation unfolded in a phone interview with CNA on Friday.
“Our basilica was left in a terrible state after. Chairs turned upside-down; food, drinks spilled. The basilica was closed for three days. Every one of the 5,000 chairs in the basilica had to be lifted in order to clean the floor and [be] put back into position.”
According to Lavelle, the clairvoyant Joe Coleman had predicted that Our Lady would appear inside the basilica at 3 p.m. that afternoon. The basilica has seating for 5,000, however, Lavelle said that he and private security allowed 7,000 inside. “I was afraid, actually, that if we stopped at 5,000 the other 5,000 would charge the building,” said Lavelle.
At around 2 p.m., Joe Coleman walked into the basilica and prayed a Rosary, and then prayed in front of the altar. Minutes passed and nothing happened.
As time worn on, the crowd became restless and began to trickle outside. “I was viewing [the crowd] from our sound room which looks down into the basilica, because I was concerned about safety,” Lavelle told CNA. “The atmosphere was like a social occasion. People were talking, people were on the phone, taking photographs. There was no sense of dignity in the building at all. There was just a sense of anticipation, people were waiting for something to happen.”
At 3:30, a loud bang from outside sent the people indoors into a frenzy, all stampeding to get out. Lavelle revealed that the private security guards found someone had let off a small firecracker on the grounds outside.
Shortly after this, the “visionary,” Joe Coleman, left the building and ran in the direction of the museum. Lavelle told of how Coleman was being mobbed by the crowd and how people were falling on the ground in efforts to reach him. “It was very dangerous,” continued Lavelle, who explained how his security guards had to lead Coleman to safety.
Coleman has since claimed that Mary appeared to him privately that afternoon and he has predicted that another apparition of Our Lady will take place on Dec. 5.
When asked by CNA if the Shrine of Knock will prevent Coleman from returning, Lavelle said that they will not intentionally close the basilica on that day, as people are welcome whenever the shrine is open. However, “as the manager of the shrine I am concerned about safety,” he said. “Joe Coleman can make his predictions and stand away from it. If something happens to someone here, he's ultimately not responsible.” The shrine manager added that discussions have taken place among the staff about ensuring that stricter safety measures are taken on Dec. 5.
Although the spectacle created by Coleman's predictions has been largely negative, Lavelle revealed that he has had a flood of very positive responses from the “real supporters of Knock.” Letters and calls have come in from people who have been “disgusted” and “distraught” at how the basilica was left.
“People who come to Knock are not looking for signs,” said Lavelle, who concluded, “Our Lady is here everyday. She responds to everyone who comes here quietly and gives people a lot of hope as she did in 1879.”