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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Pa Reporters

Biden breaks down in tears after emotional meeting with priest who gave last rites to son

US president Joe Biden broke down in tears on the final day of his Ireland tour after an emotional unplanned meeting with a priest who gave the last rites to his son.

The Parish priest of Knock, Fr Richard Gibbons, told the BBC the chaplain who performed the last rites sacrament on Mr Biden’s son, Beau, now works at the Knock shrine in Co Mayo where the president paid a visit on Friday.

Fr Frank O’Grady performed the ceremony for Beau Biden before he died of brain cancer in 2015.

After Mr Biden’s tour of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock – a Catholic pilgrimage site – Fr Gibbons told the broadcaster: “He spoke about his family and his connection with his faith, and also about his son Beau who died.

“And it just so happened, and this was kind of spontaneous, it just so happened that we have, working at the shrine here, the chaplain who gives the last rites of the last anointing to his son in the United States.

“Just extraordinary, and I didn’t even know that, I didn’t know that until the president arrived.”

Fr Gibbons said Mr Biden wanted to meet Fr O’Grady “straight away” – describing it as an emotional moment for the president.

He told the BBC: “He laughed, he cried, it just kind of hit the man, you could just see how deeply it all felt and meant to him.

“It was an extraordinary afternoon. I won’t forget it, I can tell you that it was quite something else.”

Mr Biden’s visit to Co Mayo is set to end his four-day tour of the island after he touched down at the airport in Knock on Friday afternoon.

The trip is another return to ancestral roots for the president after his trip to Co Louth on Wednesday.

The president has repeatedly spoken with passion about his Irish heritage and described addressing the country’s parliament on Thursday as “one of the great honours of my career”.

He said “it’s good to be back” as he was greeted by various dignitaries including transport minister Eamon Ryan and Mayo TD Dara Calleary after disembarking Air Force One at Ireland West airport.

The final day of Mr Biden’s trip – which former taoiseach Enda Kenny said was the longest presidential visit to Ireland ever – will culminate in a public address.

The speech will take place at St Muredach’s Cathedral, which has a direct link to the president’s ancestors.

Mr Biden’s great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt sold 27,000 bricks to the cathedral in 1827, which helped buy tickets for himself and his family to sail to America decades later in 1851.

After his arrival at the airport, the president then travelled to the Knock shrine where he was greeted by cheering crowds who lined the streets outside.

The president touched the apparition wall as part of his tour before Fr Gibbons accompanied him into the Apparition Chapel for some moments of quiet reflection.

The president is also set to visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit.

It is believed Mr Biden will also make a private visit to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Castlebar that is dedicated to his son Beau.

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