The pilgrims from the US arrived for the eight-day visit to the Marian shrine in County Mayo on Sunday

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has led 180 pilgrims from the US city to Ireland’s Knock Shrine.

The pilgrimage is the first from New York to the shrine in County Mayo, and the chartered flight is the first transatlantic service to the nearby airport in eight years.

Welcoming the cardinal and the pilgrims at the start of the eight-day visit on Sunday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “There is no reason why Knock cannot take its place on the pedestal of the most important [pilgrimage] shrines of the world such as Lourdes and Fatima.”

The shrine was established in 1879 after 15 villagers saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and John the Evangelist,

According to the BBC, the pilgrimage was set up after a meeting two years ago between Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and Knock’s parish priest, Fr Richard Gibbons.

“This is a very important and historic day for the promotion of Knock, Ireland’s national Marian shrine, at home and abroad,” Fr Gibbons said.

“It is hugely significant that the Archdiocese of New York, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is deepening its relationship with Knock Shrine and highlighting the spiritual heritage of Irish Americans, especially in New York.”