By Lydia O’Kane
Thousands of families, who not only came from the four corners of Ireland, but from around the world, happily made their through the streets leading up to Dublin’s famous Croke Park Stadium. On the way they picked up brightly coloured flags before entering the turnstiles to this hallowed pitch.
On a normal weekend one would be forgiven for thinking they were here to cheer on their county team, but this was no ordinary weekend in the city; and they were not coming for a Gaelic Football match, but to see Pope Francis and to celebrate their faith and the family.
Once inside mothers and fathers, children and grandparents were entertained by a succession of performers - but it was only when the stadium heard that the Pope was here in “Croker,” as it’s fondly known, that the celebration really got started.
Speaking to one mother during the evening, she told me proudly that her daughter was playing the violin for Pope Francis. “It’s such a privilege to be here”, she said “and something we will all remember."
A cast of thousands
This event had been billed as an evening of song and dance with a cast of thousands, and the performers, young and old and those with disabilities, had been rehearsing day and night to make sure that everything went without a hitch.
One of the first acts that Pope Francis was treated to on his arrival was a group of children performing a traditional Irish dance routine; they couldn’t have been any more than 6 years old. The Pope himself smiled and seemed enthralled as he watched them execute their steps to perfection. I was reliably informed that they had been taught by professionals from the Riverdance show, who also treated the Pope to a rendition of their most famous dance number.
Community and solidarity
This Festival of Families evening was all about celebrating the family and the faith that is passed down from generation to generation; but what could also really be felt in this massive stadium was a sense of community and solidarity. Everyone here, from those who gave their moving testimonies , families and performers welcomed Pope Francis with their hearts and he returned that warmth with good cheer and wise words.