The first ever international pilgrimage of deaf people to the national Marian Shrine will take place this Friday and Saturday, 19 and 20 May. The pilgrimage will have many highlights, including the meeting between Irish and German Deaf people on Friday and Saturday. Fr Joe Jones, Director of the National Chaplaincy for Deaf People, said: "We in the Chaplaincy are very excited about the prospects of meeting with the German group this weekend in Knock. Irish people will be travelling to Knock from the neighbouring counties and also from Dublin, Cork, Kerry and Belfast. I expect around 200 people to attend this event." The German pilgrims - the majority of them deaf - from the three dioceses Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Frelburg and Speyer, will be led by the Auxiliary Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Thomas Maria Renz. Bishop Renz said: "I hope that our pilgrims can experience in Ireland the beauty and the value of life, enjoy the surprises of a new country and be open for new acquaintances. May our Christian faith in a God who loves the world help us to achieve this." Fr Jones said: "This initiative will be a great opportunity for sharing and discussing together and will enable us to look at the similarities in our deaf culture and our sign language. Social interaction is so important for all people, but especially for the Deaf community, as it gives a sense of identity and belonging. "It will also be an opportunity for praying together and exploring issues of our faith and our spirituality and to share our religious experience with each other. The element of fun is also important as we look forward to enjoying the time we spend with each other. On Saturday, 12 workshops will enable the German and Irish pilgrims to look at different aspects of faith and share their experience." On Saturday evening, a concelebrated Mass will take place at the Apparition Gable at 3.15 pm, and the chief celebrant will be the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley and he will be assisted by Bishop Renz and other chaplains to the Deaf community. Bishop Buckley is the representative for Deaf people at the Irish Episcopal Conference. The main organiser of the German group, Permanent Deacon Karl Josef Arnold explained why Deaf people love Knock so much: "For deaf people the non-verbal message of Knock is a very special sign. They cannot hear, so they would not be able to understand a spoken message. For them, the hearing, and the seeing of the heart is so important - they need signs. "Deaf people live in a different world to that of people who can hear, they have their own language, their own way of thinking. The unspoken message of Knock is therefore precisely a message for people who cannot hear." Please see www.ncdp.ie for more information on the Irish National Chaplaincy for Deaf People. Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
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