Fr George recounts ‘memorable’ meeting with Pope Francis

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

One of the diocese’s most renowned priests has told how he felt like he was “walking on air” after meeting Pope Francis during a Papal Audience in St Peter’s Square recently.

One of the diocese’s most renowned priests has told how he felt like he was “walking on air” after meeting Pope Francis during a Papal Audience in St Peter’s Square recently.

Fr. George McLaughlin, who served in the Derry and Inishowen areas, recently celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination.

The now happily retired priest, who lives in Greencastle, visited Rome earlier this month on the occasion of his jubilee and as part of the current Year of Mercy.

Before he left for Rome, Fr George, as he is affectionately known, spoke with Bishop of Derry, Dr. Donal McKeown who was “instrumental” in ensuring a ticket for the Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Fr George was in the front row, while his housekeeper Josephine Grant and Fr Colm O’Doherty, who accompanied him to Rome, were placed further back.

He said there were thousands of people in attendance during what was a “wonderful and certainly a most memorable experience”.

He watched as Pope Francis made his way through the crowds, stopping to speak to many, including a group of sick children, some of whom he took in his arms.

Pope Francis spoke with Fr. George for a while, before putting his hand on his head and blessing him.

“I was just walking on air when he left me,” he said, adding that it was a day he’ll “never forget.”

Fr George previously shook hands with Pope John Paul II when he visited Ireland in 1979, but had never spoken with or had an audience with a Pope. He spoke highly of Pope Francis, who he described as a “lovely man” and one of great goodness.