by John Carey The early morning light spread slowly over Dublin, as at the Dominican Convent in Cabra 400 handicapped children sat waiting for the Pope. Their meeting was to be his first engagement after the hectic rush of the opening day of his Irish pilgrimage and, in Deep in prayer at the Mass in Phoenix Park, Dublin contrast to what had gone before, it was to be quiet, personal and intimate.
The children had been out there with the dawn. They included the deaf and blind and spastics and the mentally retarded. They Were cold and some a little frightened.
The Pope arrived about 8 am. He had let it be known that he wanted room to breathe and to get in among the children: and that is how it was. Here was the Pastor, away from the crowds and with individual people.
The previous night. in a message to the sick broadcast on RTE radio and television, he had said: "I would like to be able to embrace each person, to meet each group, to speak to everyone about the wonderful works of God. In particular, I would like to be able to talk individually to the sick, to the young and to the old, to those who are bedridden, to the handicapped, to everybody who ill one way or another is carrying the burden of suffering."
Cabra on Sunday morning was a symbol of that wish. There was five-year-old Caroline from Co Kerry, totally deaf and a new arrival (just a week before) at the Dominican Sisters' school for the deaf. Brown-eyed and shy. she was frightened by the crowd and was in the comforting arms of one of the sisters. The Pope touched Caroline's head, and the sister touched his, There was Munait Kennedy, a little mongol girl from St Vincents, in Navan Road, Dublin. Undaunted by the occasion. she bounced up and down and cried: "John Paul's my daddy." The Pope looked down on her for a moment and then folded her in a long embrace.
Looking drawn and tired, and controlling his own emotions only with difficulty. he moved slowly along the line. The young heads bobbed forward for the papal touch and the helpers stretched out their hands. The sisters scurried about taking photographs.
The chat wind blew and the sign in the school window said simply: "Thank you for coming.