Schoolchildren greet Pope as he touches down in west Ireland


  1. ITV Report
Pope Francis is greeted by a delegation of clergy and representatives from Ireland West Airport (Yui Mok/PA) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

Pope Francis has arrived in Co Mayo for the second day of his visit to Ireland.

The papal delegation arrived in Knock at around 9.30am on an Aer Lingus aircraft with a Papal flag and Irish tricolour flown from the cockpit.

After arriving a few minutes late to Ireland West Airport, he was greeted on the apron by a number of people, including 100 schoolchildren from four local schools.

The pupils, from St Attractas National School in Charlestown, Cloonlyon National School, Tavneena National School and Barnacogue National School, all waved Vatican and Mayo flags for his arrival.

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After battling the wind and rain as he made his way down the steps from the aircraft, the pontiff was greeted by 11-year-old Saoirse McCarthy, daughter of John McCarthy, the operations manager of Knock airport.

She handed Pope Francis a bouquet of flowers containing the Vatican colours of white and yellow roses.

Mr McCarthy’s wife Mary and their other children Michael, 10, and eight-year-old twins Robin and Ruby also greeted him to the west of Ireland.

He was also met by senior clerics and other dignitaries, including Kieran Gavin of Mayor County Council, Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, as well as the Most Reverend Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam and Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala.

Speaking after greeting the Pope, Saoirse said: “I welcomed him to the west of Ireland and he said never forget to pray for him and then he gave me a set of rosary beads.

Pope Francis greets schoolchildren after arriving at the airport in Knock in County Mayo Credit: Yui Mok/PA

“I was nervous but once I did it I was OK. I thought he was really lovely and he’s a wonderful man.

“The Pope will love Knock Shrine.”

Her mother Mary said: “Even though it’s a cold day, the people and crowds will bring warmth to him.

“You could see the smile on his face, he was happy to be here. I think he was lifted, and when I held his hand it was lovely and warm and he had a smile on his face.

“He was very happy to be in the west of Ireland.

“It’s a very special moment to be here and to welcome him. He has seen that we are the ordinary people here, that we do our best, we pray, we go to mass like anybody else.

“This will always mean a lot to us.

“It has been unforgettable.”

The plane carrying Pope Francis arrives at the airport in Knock Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Schoolchildren from Cloonlyon said the day will “go down in history”.

Cadhla O’Grady, 12, from Kilgarve, said: “He was amazing, it was really good.

“I got up to the front of the barrier and he shook my hand. He said ‘God bless you all’ which is really good.”

James Breheny, 10, said: “It felt very exciting, there’s people in Dublin and Rome that has never had the chance to meet him so we are very lucky.

“I think Pope Francis should like Knock because we have been putting in a lot of effort recently to get it right for him, it’s been non-stop working over the last few months making the best of plans for him.

“I love the town, it’s so nice. We have decorated Knock and worked on the old chapel.

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“It’s been an exciting time.”

Aoidheann Diruy, eight, said: “He said God Bless you and shook my hand, it was very good.

“The whole school has been very exciting. We liked when he came out of the door and we got to see him for the first time.”

Pupils from Tavneena school also greeted the pontiff.

Jack Burke, eight, said: “It was very exciting to the meet the Pope, he touched my forehead and it felt very good.”

Darcy McCudden, 12, said: “I got to the front of the barrier and he came around and took his time with everyone. He shook my hand – he’s a very nice person and I’m glad he took his time with everyone.”

Others said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.


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