'I'm sure all parents will give a huge hug to their children, especially before they put them to bed' - A mother's tears as hundreds gather at Mass for baby Karol
He was only here for 11 short months but in that time he brought as much happiness and joy as though he had lived a lifetime, mourners at a memorial mass for Karol Rozycki were told.
Supported by her mother and close friends, a sobbing Anna Rozycka carried a photograph of her smiling baby son to the altar at St Mary's Cathedral in Killarney.
The picture, toys, flowers and candles were among the symbols offered at the Mass for baby Karol.
Gardaí believe the baby, who died in suspicious circumstances in his home at the Killarney Park Place apartments on Sunday, may have been smothered to death. It was Ms Rozycka who requested yesterday's Mass as a way of remembering her son.
She thanked the local community for their support and appealed for their prayers for her and her family.
A collection was also held at the cathedral doors to help with the cost of repatriating Karol's body back to Poland later this week, where he will be laid to rest.
Polish Chaplain Piotr Delimat, the chief celebrant of the bilingual Mass, said little Karol or "maly Karolek", as he was referred to throughout, had united both communities.
"Karol has brought the Polish and Irish communities together.
"He unites us and all our children; no matter where we're from, we all love our children.
"I'm sure all parents will give a huge hug to their children, especially before they put them to bed," he said.
Around 500 people attended the Mass, including members of the Polish community, locals and Ms Rozycka's colleagues from the Aghadoe Heights Hotel.
Originally from the Polish city of Bielsko Biala near Kraków, Ms Rozycka has spent the last three years travelling between Ireland and Poland, where she gave birth to her baby and now intends to bury him.
Supt Flor Murphy and seven other gardaí involved in the investigation into baby Karol's death also attended the Mass.
Parish priest Fr Kieran O'Brien called on those gathered to pray for Anna and her family.
"Today is a sad occasion for Anna, her family and the Polish community here in Killarney as we try to journey with them to lighten their burden in whatever way is possible.
"Anna is very grateful for all the support she has received, from her colleagues in the Aghadoe Heights Hotel, the gardaí, residents and staff at Park Place, and the wider community here in Killarney. To see so many of you gathered in our cathedral says many things to Anna.
"What she asks now from us is our prayers for her family.
"We think of baby Karol and the 11 months he shared their family life and how he brightened up their lives, and I'm sure baby Karol will continue to be their strength at this time," he added.
A close family friend paid a special tribute to the gardaí and the owners of the apartment where the family had lived. He said God had sent them at a special time and they couldn't go through this without their support.
"Karol was a lovely boy. In his short life, he gave us so much happiness, more than someone with a long life could have. May he rest in peace," he said.
Meanwhile, a Polish man who was found injured in the apartment on Sunday is in a stable but critical condition in Tralee General Hospital's ICU department.
He is understood to have suffered substantial blood loss due to serious arm and abdominal injuries, which are believed to have been self-inflicted.