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Travellers fire tragedy family relative William, 9, blessed by Pope at Vatican

Published 26/10/2015

Pope Francis blessed William at the Vatican
Pope Francis blessed William at the Vatican

A young relative of those who died in the devastating fire in Carrickmines has been treated like a celebrity after being blessed by Pope Francis.

William, 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. Afterwards people started coming up to him and he was given things to hold in his hands.

"He's delighted, I'd say the best way to describe him is he's chuffed."

William, aged nine, was with his cousin Dan, aged seven, and Dan's mother Biddie, in the front seats for the audience at the Paul VI Hall in the Holy City.

Ms O'Leary Connors works with the Southside Travellers Action Group and her mother was part of the extended Connors family left devastated by the fire in the halting site in Glenamuck over two weeks ago.

Thomas, 27, and Sylvia Connors, 25, and their three children, Jim, five, Christy, two, and five-month-old baby Mary died in the blaze.

Ms Connors's brother Willie Lynch, his partner Tara Gilbert, and their two children Jodie, aged eight, and Kelsey, aged four, also died as did Willie's brother Jimmy.

Alison Nevin, from Swords, Dublin was among the first to be blessed by the Pope when he stepped down to meet pilgrims at the event to mark the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's meeting with Roma people.

Mourners at the funeral of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin. PA
Mourners at the funeral of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin. PA
The coffins of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, leave the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin, following their funeral. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 22, 2015. Photo credit should read: Philip Fitzpatrick/PA Wire
Sinn Fein Gerry Adams at the funeral of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 22, 2015. Photo credit should read: Philip Fitzpatrick/PA Wire
The funeral cortege carrying the coffins of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, two and five month old baby Mary, arrive at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 22, 2015. Photo credit should read: Philip Fitzpatrick/PA Wire
The coffins of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, leave the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin, following their funeral. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 22, 2015. Photo credit should read: Philip Fitzpatrick/PA Wire
Jojo Connors, mother of Thomas Connors is helped after the funeral of the Connors family, Thomas, 27, and his wife Sylvia, 25, with three of their children, Jim, five, Christy, at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin, who died in the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 22, 2015. Photo credit should read: Philip Fitzpatrick/PA Wire
Teachers from the school of Jodie White, aged 9 line the street in mourning at the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
Teachers from St. Peter's primary school in Bray, where Jodie Lynch attended, await the funeral cortege's departure from the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bray, Co. Wicklow, following the funeral mass of Jimmy Lynch and of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, and their children Jodie and Kelsey, who died in the Carrickmines blaze. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 20, 2015. See PA story IRISH Carrickmines. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams leaves the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bray, Co. Wicklow, following the funeral mass of Jimmy Lynch and of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, and their children Jodie and Kelsey, who died in the Carrickmines blaze. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 20, 2015. See PA story IRISH Carrickmines. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The funeral cortege of Jimmy Lynch and of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, and their children Jodie and Kelsey, who died in the Carrickmines blaze makes it's way to Springfield cemetary, Bray, Co. Wicklow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 20, 2015. See PA story IRISH Carrickmines. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Mourners at the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bray, Co. Wicklow, for the funeral mass of Jimmy Lynch and of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, and their children Jodie and Kelsey, who died in the Carrickmines blaze. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 20, 2015. See PA story IRISH Carrickmines. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Teachers from the school of Jodie White, aged 9 line the street in mourning at the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: 5 hearses carry the bodies of a young family killed in a fire from their funeral at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
Tanaiste Joan Burton arrives for the funeral mass of Jimmy Lynch and of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, and their children Jodie and Kelsey, who died in the Carrickmines blaze. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 20, 2015. See PA story IRISH Carrickmines. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Mourners attend the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Teachers from the school of Jodie White, aged 9 line the street in mourning at the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: 5 hearses carry the bodies of a young family killed in a fire from their funeral at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Mourners attend the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: 5 hearses carry the bodies of a young family killed in a fire from their funeral at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Builders line the street outside the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Mourners attend the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Hearses containing the coffins of a young family killed in a fire arrive for the funeral being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Hearses containing the coffins of a young family killed in a fire arrive for the funeral being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Mourners attend the funeral of a young family killed in a fire being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: 5 hearses of a young family killed in a fire arrive for their funeral at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Coffins of a young family killed in a fire arrive for the funeral at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
BRAY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 20: Hearses containing the coffins of a young family killed in a fire arrive for the funeral being held at the Church of The Most Holy Redeemer on October 20, 2015 in Bray, Ireland. It is the first of the funerals for 10 people who lost their lives at a traveller halting site in Carrickmines on October 10. The 5 being buried today are Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willie's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39). (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
The coffins arrive at the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bray, Co. Wicklow, for the funeral mass of Jimmy Lynch and of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, and their children Jodie and Kelsey, who died in the Carrickmines blaze. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 20, 2015. See PA story IRISH Carrickmines. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Up to 7,000 Roma, including about 300 Irish Travellers, came from across Europe and further afield for the ceremony

In his address to the thousands of pilgrims the Pope said: "We no longer want to attend family tragedies where children die of cold or in the flames, or become objects in the hands of depraved people, young people and women are involved in drug trafficking or human trafficking."

The Pope criticised the indifference to other ways of life and an inability to accept different customs.

But he also urged the pilgrims not to do anything that was not worthy of God's name "deceit, fraud, cheating, quarrels".

Another Irish pilgrim Nancy Collins, who was also blessed by the Pope, added: "It was brilliant. I've never felt anything like it before.

"I've been to Lourdes, Medjugorje, but this makes you believe so much more."

Ms O'Leary Connors said the pilgrimage had reignited her faith.

"It's just so uplifting. The way we feel at home, the situation with the housing, to know that the Holy Father is with us even when the Government does not appear to be with us, that is why we are so religious, we can rely on our religion," she said.

"I think he is doing wonders for our religion, and especially for Ireland."

Ronnie Fay, of Pavee Point who travelled to the Vatican for the event, said: "I think it's really important for all of society, and all societies in the world, to get a strong message from someone like the Pope to promote tolerance and understanding.

"And it's an important message that racism, xenophobia and discrimination has to end."

"People have to be accepted and integrated and shown respect and given opportunities to make progress. This is a key message for all societies."

Ms Fay added: "I've been struck by the commonalities of the Roma and traveller people throughout Europe and the world and the importance of family and faith for them."

"We need to make sure that Christians hear the message that the Catholic Pope has given."

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