herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Selfie with the Pope as Pontiff meets Carrickmines relatives

Tragedy

Margaret O'Leary Connors meets Pope Francis
Margaret O'Leary Connors meets Pope Francis

Relatives of the victims of the Carrickmines fire have been blessed by Pope Francis at a special audience in Rome.

Bill (9) and Dan (7) Connors are third cousins of the Connors family, who perished in the tragedy more than a fortnight ago.

Bill, who suffers from a lung disease, was with his mother, Margaret O'Leary Connors. They were among the thousands of Roma and Travellers at a special audience with the pontiff in the Vatican - where they got a personal greeting.

"He was quite excited," she said. "He thinks he's a bit of a celebrity now. He was blessed by the Pope and then he got a selfie. Afterwards people started coming up to him and he was given things to hold in his hands," she added. "He's delighted - I'd say the best way to describe him is he's chuffed."

Bill, Dan and Dan's mother, Biddie, were in the front seats for the audience at the Paul VI Hall in the Holy City.

The family arranged to attend the audience long before the halting site fire that claimed 10 lives. The event was part of an international pilgrimage of Roma and Traveller communities, which attracted up to 7,000 people. It is estimated that around 400 Irish Travellers were in attendance.

Bill and Dan's grandmothers are first cousins of Jim and Jojo, whose grandchildren Jim (5), Christy (2) and Mary (five months) were killed in the blaze. They were buried alongside their parents, Thomas and Sylvia Connors, in Wexford last week.

Encampment

Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the first meeting between members of nomadic communities and the Pope in Rome. He called on those present to "turn the page" to begin a new chapter in the history of nomadic people.

"We don't want to witness family tragedies in which children die from cold or are burnt in fires, or who become objects of depraved persons," he said.

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