Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

No spiritual gain without pain for barefoot pilgrims

An estimated 20,000 people from both sides of the Irish border walked to the top of Ireland's holiest mountain yesterday.

One man had to be airlifted from Croagh Patrick while dozens of others suffered sprain injuries during the annual pilgrimage in Co Mayo.

The annual 1,500-year-old pilgrimage commemorates St Patrick's ascent to the summit of the mountain where a special mass was celebrated yesterday.

Peter Jordan from the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team said an estimated 20,000 people took part in the pilgrimage.

He said: "One man who suffered a suspected heart attack was airlifted off the mountain and taken to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar but that was the most serious incident.

"A few other people had to be airlifted off as they were suffering from fatigue but apart from a few cuts, bruises and sprains, everything went very well.

"The weather was lovely and it didn't rain at all. We're estimating at this stage that more people climbed the mountain this year than last year which is probably due to the fantastic weather we had on Sunday."

This year's celebrations began in Westport on Saturday when a mass was held at St Mary's Church.

The pilgrims included the Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, who held a service at the summit. The pilgrimage commemorates St Patrick's fast on the summit for 40 days and nights in 441AD.