Philomena Lee ‘honoured’ to meet Pope Francis in Vatican

Philomena Lee meets Pope Francis in St Peter's Square yesterday. The audience with the pope was also attended by her daughter Jane Libberton and actor Steve Coogan.

Philomena Lee, the inspiration behind the Oscar tipped film Philomena, has had an audience with Pope Francis.

The film, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, recounts the true story of Philomena Lee’s search for the son she was forced to put up for adoption through the Seán Ross Abbey mother and baby home in 1952, when she was aged 19.

More than 60 years after she saw her son for the last time, Ms Lee met Pope Francis along with her daughter, Jane Libberton, and Coogan, who wrote, produced, and starred in the film.

Ms Lee said it was an honour to meet the pontiff.

“I am honoured and delighted to have been in the presence of Pope Francis today,” she said.

“As the film portrays, I have always put great faith in the Church and the goodwill to put the wrongs of the past right.

“I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories.”

The film has generated international acclaim and focused international attention on the State’s failure to open adoption records and provide tracing rights to natural parents and adopted people.

Along with her daughter, Ms Lee founded the Philomena Project, in association with the Adoption Rights Alliance.

It is lobbying the State to grant access to adoption records for both in-country and Irish-US adopted people and their families.

Tracing and information legislation has been promised as a “priority” by every government since 1997 and has been delayed numerous times by the current Government.

There are in the region of 60,000 adopted people in Ireland. Adoption groups have said there is clear evidence of illegal adoptions carried out by the State and estimated that the number of people illegally adopted in Ireland could run into the thousands.

However, speaking in the Dáil in November, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that all adoptions carried out by the State since 1952 had been in line with the law.

Ms Fitzgerald made the claim, despite the fact that no full audit of adoption records held by the HSE or religious adoption agencies has ever been carried out. She confirmed that no such audit is currently planned.


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