Fr. Aidan at mass with Pope Francis

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A Banbridge priest described a mass in Philadephia with Pope Francis as ‘wonderful.’

Fr Aidan McAleenan, 52, who helped students affected by the Berkeley balcony deaths in California in June saw Pope Francis as he came to Philadelphia to close the World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored conference of more than 18,000 people from around the world.

Fr McAleenan was ordained in St Patrick’s Church in Banbridge in 2005 said being part of the Mass along with members of his African American parish brought with him back fond memories of attending the papal visit of Pope John Paul II to Galway in 1979.

The mass marked the end of his six-day trip to the US with a Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the American city before flying back to Rome.

Fr McAleenan said, “We are just around 100 ft away from the altar, being one of thousands of priests to be be here, watching the Pope saying mass to two million people worldwide is unbelievable.

“The security is very tight, there is a very heavy police presence, but it is wonderful to be here.

“It is an amazing feeling and everything Pope Francis has done while he has been here, talking about dialogue, has been fantastic.

“He is very inclusive of everyone.

“It is an honour to be here and brings back many fond memories of when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979.

“I was part of a group from Banbridge parish that travelled to Galway racetrack for his papal visit.”

Fr McAleenan has been working with Afro-American parishioners at St Columba’s Church in Oakland, near Berkeley, for the past six years.”