Young victims at 'a beautiful moment in their lives' says Archbishop Martin
Tragedy struck when Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller were at a "beautiful moment in their lives", Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told a special commemorative Mass for the Berkeley victims.
Flanked by five priests and Bishop Raymond Field, the Archbishop (inset above) described the six young men and women as "the products of what is best in Irish families".
Speaking to a packed St Mary's Pro Cathedral in Dublin at the weekend, he said the tragic events "made us stop in our tracks". It had instantly touched our hearts because we are all familiar with the "dreams and hopes of young people".
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Martin said: "People feel a real need to somehow identify themselves in a concrete way, not just passively, with this tragedy. Sometimes when you are faced with what is unexplainable and you can't find the words, silence and prayer is the way that you come to terms with it."
Thousands of people queued before and after Mass, including former president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, to sign a book of condolence.
Mrs McAleese said she was there to lend "support, solidarity, love and affection". She spoke for the nation when she added, "these are all our children".
She said her letter to the 'New York Times' criticising its coverage of the tragedy, along with letters from many others, "provoked exactly what we hoped it would provoke - that someone would say that this is completely out of order. I think it helped move the story to where it should be."
The McAleeses brought the gifts of bread and wine to the altar.
Student Fergal Deenihan (17) brought the chalice. He told the Irish Independent he had come to "pay my respects to the victims" and "to pray for the full recovery of Aoife Beary", one of those injured in the tragedy.
"She lives near me and is in a critical condition," he explained.
Another Mass-goer, Rena Delaney from Kilkenny, said her three children had all been to the US on the J1 programme. "I would have worried about them. This is every parent's worst nightmare. I feel really sorry for the children who are injured."
Mary Savage travelled from Mullingar to attend the Mass. "What has happened is horrific. If it was only one, but six. There are a number who are injured and for some their injuries are life-changing - at 21.
"It is just the worst thing that could happen to any young person," she said.
Sr Julie Doran from Dublin said she was heartened by how Irish people reacted to tragedy. "The young people of Ireland have shown their true colours and a real Christian spirit. We are very proud of them," she said as her eyes filled with tears.