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Saturday 30 August 2014

Meeting Pope lifted my guilt: Philomena

Kirsty Blake Knox

Published 07/02/2014 | 02:30

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Philomena Lee and actor Steve Coogan smile as they pose following a news conference in Rome.

Philomena Lee has said meeting Pope Francis has alleviated the guilt she has carried for decades after having a child out of wedlock.

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Ms Lee, the inspirational women behind Oscar nominated film 'Philomena', made the comments at a press conference in Rome yesterday.

"You were made to feel so bad about having a baby out of wedlock," Ms Lee said. "I've carried the guilt inside for years, without telling anybody.

"So I had such a sense of relief that I had been forgiven," she said. Ms Lee travelled to Rome at the invitation of the Vatican to attend Mass and meet Pope Francis as she continues her campaign to have Ireland's adoption laws re-examined.

Ms Lee held a screening of the movie 'Philomena' for Pope Francis's personal secretary with Steve Coogan and her daughter Jane Libberton.

During the screening of the film, Ms Lee and others involved in The Philomena Project asked Vatican officials to press the Catholic Church in Ireland to release the adoption files that church-affiliated adoption agencies still keep.

Ms Lee admitted she had initially felt some resentment towards the Catholic Church, after she was forced to give her three-year-old son up for adoption, but over time her anger has waned.

"But over the years, after such a long time – Anthony would be 62 this year – so how could I go through a whole of life holding a grudge?" she said. "I've long since forgiven everything that did happen."

Ms Lee has previously stated that working in a psychiatric ward also helped her deal with the trauma of losing her son.

"I saw so much hurt and pain caused through anger, I thought why am I angry? I've got to let it go and let my anger fade away."

The Adoption Rights Alliance of Ireland believe Ms Lee's case is not unique and over 60,000 adoption files are currently being held by the HSE, private adoption agencies and church representatives.

"This is another subset of women who were incarcerated in a joint enterprise by the church and state," co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance Susan Lohan said.

"The vast, vast majority of children in the mother and baby homes were taken without their mothers' consent."

Irish Independent

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