The annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage on Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A vigil mass for those who intended to climb will take place at the end of July instead.

Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary will celebrate the Mass in Westport on Saturday 25 July. 

The decision to abandon the annual pilgrimage on Sunday 26 July has been taken following detailed consultations in recent weeks.

In a statement, the Reek Sunday Organising Forum said that concern about visitor numbers and adherence to public health advice were the main deciding factors behind the cancellation.

Organisers say it would not be logistically possible to oversee the pilgrimage in 2020.

Many of the stewards that marshal the route are cocooning at present and the need for medical personnel on the site throughout the day would constitute further a health risk.

Public health experts also advised the organising forum that Reek Sunday fell outside the criteria outlined by Government for the staged reopening of the country.

The event draws thousands of people to the region on the last Sunday of July but this year they are being asked to stay away.

The climb was cancelled in 2015 at very short notice, after torrential rain led to safety concerns on the morning of the pilgrimage.

However, thousands of people undertook the journey that day, despite appeals to stay away.

Organisers say they are pleading with intending pilgrims to respect the decision to cancel the event this summer in the interests of locals and the wider national effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement, the Catholic Communications Office said that having consulted with various bodies, it found it necessary to cancel the 2020 National Reek Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick.