Wednesday 22 November 2017

Carrickmines relatives meet Pope during Vatican ceremony

Pope Francis greets Roma and Traveller communities at the Vatican
Pope Francis greets Roma and Traveller communities at the Vatican
Irish Travellers meet the pope in the Vatican

Jane O'Faherty and Ed Carty

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

Bill (9) and Dan Connors (7) 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 among the thousands of Roma and Travellers for the special audience with the pontiff in the Vatican when 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," she added. "He's delighted, I'd say the best way to describe him is he's chuffed."

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

The event was part of an international pilgrimage of Roma and Traveller communities, which attracted up to 7,000 people, among them some 400 Irish Travellers.

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.

Speaking during the event, Pope Francis said he did not want to see any more Traveller children die in fires. "We do not want to witness family tragedies in which children die from cold or are burnt in fires, or who become objects in the hands of depraved persons," he said.

Ronnie Fay of Pavee Point, who was in the Vatican for the event, said: "I think it's really important for all of society . . . to get a strong message from someone like the Pope to promote tolerance and understanding. And it's an important message that racism . . . and discrimination has to end."

Irish Independent

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