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Thousands expected to log on for first Clonard novena held online

Thousands of people are expected to take part in the first ever Clonard online novena. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

THOUSANDS of people are expected to log on tomorrow for the start of first online Clonard novena.

The annual novena normally attracts more than 100,000 visitors over nine days to the west Belfast church but due to the Covid-19 pandemic will take place online only this year.

Held in honour of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, it will also take the form of four daily sessions instead of the usual 10.

Viewers can log on at at 7am, 9.30am, 6.15pm and 8pm for the Masses, which will be celebrated behind closed doors by the Redemptorist community.

However, Clonard church is also open from 10.30am to 5pm to allow people to go in and submit their petitions and thanksgivings.

The theme of this year's novena is `Hope in a time of Crisis'.

On Monday it will also hold its Ecumenical Day when members of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches will preach.

Fr Peter Burns, Rector of Clonard, said "logistically, this is an incredibly simply novena for us".

"We don't have to turn crowds or car parking around every hour-and-a-half. We don't have to cater for our volunteers," he said.

"In that sense it is much simpler for us and yet, at the same time, we will be doing what we always do at the Solemn Novena.

"We will be celebrating the Eucharist. There will be singing and praying and petitions and thanksgivings and preachers. This year, the preaching is particularly important.

"All of that will be happening four times a day. There is no way of knowing how many people will be accessing it. There has been a lot of interest."

Fr Burns urged those logging on not to simply watch the novena but to "get involved".

"Because it is an online novena it can't possibly replicate that experience of people coming in such large numbers to be at Clonard during the nine days," he said.

"Clonard Novena is essentially experiential. It is something that people experience by being together in large numbers and it is just not possible to capture that.

"So people who do access, they will be coming online and they will be looking in but I would encourage people to not simply be spectating or be observing. We will be encouraging people to engage and really participate and that is not easy to do when it is online."

He added: "We are looking forward to it and we have been making careful preparation.

"It is something we have decided to so and something we are committed to and something we are preparing for carefully while recognising it can never be the same as the real thing."

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