"Since my parents first brought me to Knock as a teenager, I have been drawn back there, many times, to praise God and to find peace, encouragement and spiritual comfort in the shrine chapel.
"Just as in 1879, when the Apparition at Knock brought hope to Irish people in distress, so also during these challenging days of the COVID-19 pandemic it reminds us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph remain close to us," he said.
Pope Francis has declared that the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock is to be recognised as an International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine from March 19, 2021, the feast of Saint Joseph.
Archbishop Martin said the County Mayo shrine was an important place of pilgrimage for many Catholics.
"The Holy Father’s announcement will be particularly welcome as we begin the 'Year of the Family'. I recall accompanying Pope Francis during his pilgrimage to Knock as part of his visit to the World Meeting of Families 2018.
"I heard him say that he had come to 'the house of Our Lady' at Knock where he 'lifted up to Our Lady’s loving intercession all the families of the world'. He recognised the fact that in the Apparition tableau, Our Lady appears with her family – Jesus, the Lamb of God, her husband Saint Joseph, and Saint John, the son given her by Jesus on the Cross.
"All being well, as the restrictions ease in the coming months, many Irish families will be able to follow the Holy Father’s footsteps and pay a thanksgiving visit to Knock - now an internationally recognised Marian and Eucharistic Shrine!"