US President Joe Biden broke down in tears on the last day of his tour of Ireland after an emotional, unplanned meeting with a priest who gave last rites to his son.
Knock parish priest, Father Richard Gibbons, told the BBC the chaplain who performed the sacrament of last rites on Mr Biden’s son Beau now works at the Knock shrine in County Mayo, where the president visited Friday.
Father Frank O’Grady performed the ceremony for Beau Biden before he died of brain cancer in 2015.
After Biden’s tour of the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock – a Catholic pilgrimage site – Father Gibbons told the broadcaster: “He spoke about his family and his connection to his faith, and also about his son Beau who died .
“And it just so happened, and it was kind of spontaneous, it just so happened that we have, working on the shrine here, the chaplain giving the last rites of the last anointing to his son in the United States.
“Just amazing, and I didn’t even know it, I didn’t know it until the president came along.”
Father Gibbons said Biden wanted to meet Father O’Grady “right now,” describing it as an emotional time for the president.
He told the BBC: ‘He laughed, he cried, it just hit the man, you could see how deep it all went and meant to him.
“It was an extraordinary afternoon. I won’t forget it, I can tell you it was quite another thing.
Biden’s visit to Co Mayo is expected to conclude his four-day tour of the island after he touched down at Knock Airport on Friday afternoon.
The trip is another return to ancestral roots for the president following his trip to Co Louth on Wednesday.
The president has repeatedly spoken passionately about his Irish ancestry and described his address to the country’s parliament on Thursday as “one of the great honors of my career”.
He said “it’s good to be back” when he was greeted by various dignitaries including Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Mayo TD Dara Calleary after disembarking from Air Force One at Ireland West Airport.
The final day of Biden’s trip – which former Taoiseach Enda Kenny called the longest presidential visit to Ireland ever – will culminate in a public speech.
The speech will take place in St Muredach’s Cathedral, which has a direct link to the president’s ancestors.
Biden’s 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 proceeded to the Knock shrine where he was greeted by cheering crowds that lined the streets outside.
The president touched the apparition wall as part of his tour before Father Gibbons accompanied him to the Apparition Chapel for a few moments of quiet reflection.
The president will also visit the Family History Research Unit of the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Center.
It is believed that Mr Biden will also make a private visit to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Castlebar which is dedicated to his son Beau.