Pope Francis: 'Travellers are at the heart of the Church - not just at the outside'
Carrickmines fire victims' family join thousands at special Vatican mass
A young Irish Traveller girl was the first to be blessed by Pope Francis as he stepped down from the pulpit at a special mass at the Vatican in Rome today.
Alison Nevin, from Swords in Dublin, was part of a Traveller pilgrimage from Ireland who travelled for the assembly of nomadic people in Italy.
Relatives of the victims of the Carrickmines fire tragedy were also in attendance and were given special seating in the Vatican for the mass.
The event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first ever visit by a pontiff to a gypsy camp, when Pope Paul VI travelled to Pomezia on the outskirts of Rome in 1965.
Pavee Point's Ronnie Fay told RTE News at One that the Connors family - "young Dan Connors and his mother Biddie, young Bill Connors and his mother Mags" - were "very pleased" to be part of the pilgrimage.
"I think people felt really heartened that this event happened," she told presenter Aine Lawlor this afternoon.
"[The Pope] spoke to us strongly about the need for inclusion, the need for education and that society needs to be more inclusive and compassionate to the Roma and Travellers around the world, that Roma and Travellers need to get the opportunity to get good education and justice, not to experience racism and discrimination."
Up to 7,000 Roma and Travellers from "every corner of the earth" attended the ceremony which featured "beautiful Roma Spanish and Italian music".
Babies and rosary beads were passed for the Pope to kiss and bless when he entered and left the Vatican.
According to Ms. Fay, the pope became "really emotional" when a Roma woman from Serbia spoke about the discrimination and racism that they have to live with.
"He said that Roma and Travellers were at the heart of the Church - not just at the outside," she said.
"He said that in the future there should be more Roma and Traveller priests and nuns."
Ms. Fay said that the relatives of the carrickmines victims "really appreciated" the message that The Pope sent to the funerals of their loved ones.
Those who took part in the pilgrimage were "very conscious about the bereaved families" during their visit and "have been praying and getting special masses said and lighting candles for them here".