Joe Biden breaks down in tears during chance meeting with priest

Beau Biden died of brain cancer at the age of 46 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland in 2015. President Biden met the priest who performed the last rites sacrament in a chance meeting during a visit to a Catholic shrine in County Mayo.

Parish priest Father Richard Gibbons gave the president a tour of Knock shrine where locals claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1879.

Fr Gibbons said that the chaplain who gave the last rites to the president’s son now works at the shrine.

He told how Fr Frank O’Grady met the US president.”He spoke about his family and his connection with his faith, and also about his son Beau who died.

“And this was kind of spontaneous, it just so happened that we have, working at the shrine here, the chaplain who gave 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.

“I told the president that because I would have lined up the priests to meet him, so he wanted to meet him straightaway.”

Fr Gibbons said it was an emotional moment for Joe Biden.

He said: “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 was met by cheering crowds waving Ireland, US and Mayo flags, at the shrine, one sign in the crowd read “Welcome Home Joe”.

Fr Gibbons held an umbrella over the president as they walked towards the Apparition Chapel.

Mr Biden touched the original apparition wall before heading inside the chapel.

The pilgrimage location has been visited by several popes, most recently by Pope Francis in 2018.

Mr Biden is the second Catholic president and has been known to attend Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington’s Georgetown neighbourhood, a few miles from the White House.

It is where the nation’s first Catholic president, John F Kennedy, also attended mass in his time in office.

Upon arrival at Knock airport, Mr Biden was met by various dignitaries including transport minister Eamon Ryan and Mayo member of parliament Dara Calleary.

Knock airport was opened in 1985 to attract visitors to the pilgrimage site and is the fourth busiest airport in Ireland, serving 722,000 passengers in 2022.

Later the President was due to travel to the town of Ballina, where his great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt supplied 27,000 bricks used to build St Muredach’s Cathedral.

The president was presented with a 200-year-old brick from his ancestral home an 1820s cottage at the rear of what is now Caffrey’s Art Gallery on Garden Street.

It was the culmination of a four-day visit by the US president to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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