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Galway girl is Pope Francis’ pen pal!



A twelve-year-old Galway girl is just back from Rome and a personal meeting with the Pope – joining children from across the world for a very special event.

Clara Ó Gormáin – a pupil at Scoil Iognáid in Galway city – was one of hundreds of children around the world who were invited to think of a question they’d like to ask Pope Francis.

What they didn’t know is that thirty of them would go into a special new book – and that those questioners would be invited to meet with the Pontiff in Rome, where she presented with the gift of a tin whistle.

Clara – daughter of Brendan O’Gorman and Síne Phelan and living in Devon Park – and the children were flown to Rome for a special meeting with the Pope last week where she gave him a present of a tin whistle.

“He was very kind to us but what I like most was that he took our questions seriously when he answered them – sometimes adults don’t do that with children”, she said in an interview to Irish Jesuit Communications.

The book, Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters From Children Around the Word, has now been published by Irish Messenger Publications and Loyola Press USA.

“The teacher just passed around a page and everyone just asked a question but I still didn’t know what it was for until about four months ago when my dad told me it was being sent with the letters from Europe to the Pope,” she said on her return last week.

Clara’s letter – which she beautifully illustrated herself – is carried in Irish in the book and she wrote: “A Phápa Proinsias, a chara. An airíonn tú mar Phápa gur tú athair ag an domhain iomlán? Mise le Mheas, Clara.”

The Pope responded to her question as to whether or not he liked being a dad to the whole world.

“Every priest likes to feel that he is a father; spiritual fatherhood is truly important. I feel it deeply – I couldn’t think of myself in any other way except as a father and I very much like your drawing with the big heart in which there’s a dad with two little girls. Are you the one with the teddy bear?

“Yes, Clara, I like being a dad,” he replied.

Clara, who has two younger brothers, Breandán and Mícheal, was second eldest of the 30 to meet Francis, with the children from around the world aged from 13 down to five.

She made friends with so many of them – including one seven year old Australian boy Luca, who asked the Pope: “My mum’s in heaven – will she grow angel wings?” pope

“No, no, no, your mum is in heaven – beautiful, splendid and full of life. She hasn’t grown wings, she is still your mum, the person you know – but she is more radiant than ever,” responded Pope Francis.

The Pontiff also reveals so much about himself – like the fact that he cries often, he loves to dance the tango and he’s passionate about soccer.

The questions are carefully thought out and wonderfully original – but so too are the answers….“Dear Pope Francis, if you could do one miracle what would it be”.

“I would heal every child.”

The book is the brain-child of the Jesuit publishing company in Chicago, Loyola Press, headed up by Belfast born Jesuit Paul Campbell. He says the book has received extensive media coverage in the states, featuring on ABC’s Good Morning America. “And it was also in the top ten books selling on Amazon,” according to Fr Campbell.

Messenger Editor Fr Donal Neary SJ, says the Pope expresses a deep theology very simply in his responses to the huge variety of questions so typical of young imaginations.

Scoil Iognáid were only too delighted to be involved in the project from its inception; school principal Laoise Bhreathnach and all the teachers across different classes played their part. But the two teachers who co-ordinated the project were Nóirín Nic Grianna and Caoimhe Ní Fhríghil.

Clara said she would never forget her trip, her meeting – or her new friends from around the world.

“We got lots of tours and too much food but when we actually met the Pope it was amazing. We got a whole hour with him and we all got to ask him questions and he answered them properly – he thought about it and answered with what he actually believed whereas some adults wouldn’t actually do that,” she said.

Now back as a hero among her classmates at Scoil Iognáid, Clara reflected on meeting the Pope and said simply: “He’s very nice and he has a very good sense of humour.

“He is very kind and if can ever do something to change the world he probably will.”

As for her experience? “I’m really, really lucky and I’ll probably remember this for my whole life.”

Dear Pope Francis was published this week by Messenger Publications, priced at €14.99.


Cars down to one-way system on Salthill Promenade



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A one-way system of traffic may be introduced along the Promenade in Salthill to facilitate the introduction of temporary cycle lanes.

The suggestion appeared to come as a shock to some City Council members who supported the cycle lane in a vote last month – one has called for a “full discussion again” on what exactly they had actually approved.

Councillors had voted 17-1 in favour of the principle of providing a cycleway that will stretch from Grattan Road all along the Prom.

The motion that passed at the September meeting proposed that the Council “shall urgently seek” to create a two-way segregated cycle track on a temporary basis along the coastal side of the Prom.

It was agreed that from the Blackrock Tower junction to the Barna Road would be a one-way cycle track.

The motion was voted on without debate, which meant Council officials did not have an opportunity to question the proposal.

At a meeting on Monday, the debate was revisited when Uinsinn Finn, Director of Services for Transportation, indicated that a one-way traffic system would be introduced in Salthill to facilitate a two-way cycle lane from Grattan Road to Blackrock.

This could mean that the outbound lane of traffic, closest to the sea, could be closed to all traffic bar bikes.

Mr Finn said that he would have sought clarity at the previous meeting – if debate were allowed – about what was meant by ‘temporary’.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway Christmas Market gets go-ahead for next month



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – It’s the first real sign of a restoration of normality in terms of the retail and hospitality sectors in the city – the return of the Christmas Market next month to Eyre Square.

This week, the City Council’s planning department gave the go-ahead for the outdoor retail and gourmet food ‘spread’ that has been part of the festive season in Galway since 2010.

The exception was last year when, like so many other public gatherings since the Covid crisis broke in March 2020, the event had to be cancelled because of public health concerns.

Christmas Market Organiser, Maria Moynihan Lee, Managing Director of Milestone Inventive, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune, that she had received official confirmation on Thursday from the City Council of the go-ahead being given for the event.

“This is really wonderful news for the city and especially so in terms of the retail and hospitality sectors. For every €1 spent at the market another €3 will be spent on the high street – this will be a real boost for Galway,” she said.

Maria Moynihan Lee confirmed that the market would have an earlier than usual start of Friday, November 12 and would run through until the Wednesday evening of December 22.

(Photo: Declan Colohan)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Work/live units form part of new Galway City affordable housing project



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Five ‘live/work’ units form part of the design of a new affordable and social housing development planned for Ballybane.

The mixed development unanimously approved by city councillors this week will provide 103 apartments and houses in the Coillte Mhuirlinne estate.

A total of 85 homes will be affordable, although the details of how much they will cost to purchase have yet to be decided. The remaining 20%, or 18 units, will be social housing. Some €4.6 million in Government funding has already been approved for the social housing aspect of the plan.

Included in the design of the housing development is a ‘live/work’ element.

The Council’s Acting Director of Services for Housing, Tom Prendergast, explained that the ground floor of the five live/work three-storey units would contain an office, retail or commercial unit for service providers with three-bedroom maisonettes over the next two floors.

“It would be envisioned that these five units would be small-scale businesses run by the occupants living above.

“There would be little passing trade for any commerciality of these units so we would envisage small local services similar to a hairdresser, accountant, physiotherapist would occupy these units as an extension of ‘working from home’,” the report to city councillors said.

Mr Prendergast said the concept was similar to people living over their shops in towns and city centres. A crèche will also be built close to the commercial units.

Mayor of Galway, Colette Connolly, said she hoped lessons were learned from the previous commercial property development in Ballybane where units “were empty for 15 years” and some public bodies could not afford the rents.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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