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CNN
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President Joe Biden on Friday recounted his spontaneous meeting with the priest who delivered last rites to his son Beau during a visit to a holy shrine in Ireland.

“It was incredible to see him. It seemed like a sign,” Biden said during remarks in Ballina, adding that the encounter had come “out of the blue.”

The unplanned meeting with Fr. Frank O’Grady made for an emotional moment during a sentimental return to Ireland for the president, who was exploring his family roots.

While Biden was planning to learn more about his long-ago ancestors who departed here during the famine, he found a connection to his more recently departed son during a visit to the Knock Shrine, a Catholic site of pilgrimage where it’s said the Virgin Mary appeared to parishioners in 1879.

O’Grady retired to Ireland from the United States after 30 years, including time working at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where Beau Biden died. When the president arrived at Knock, he was informed that the priest who administered his son’s last rites was there.

“I gotta meet him, I gotta meet him,” Biden said, according to an account of the episode in The Irish Times.

O’Grady didn’t have the requisite security approval to meet the president. But it was quickly resolved, and the two met for about 10 minutes.

“He laughed, he cried, it just kind of hit the man, you could just (see) how deeply it all felt and meant to him,” Fr. Richard Gibbons, the Knock parish priest, told The Irish Times.

A White House official confirmed the account, and said the moment was not planned ahead of time.

Biden has spent much of his time in Ireland exploring his roots alongside his sister, Valerie, and his son Hunter.

But his late son was on his mind as well. Throughout the sometimes-rainy trip, Biden kept his head dry with a baseball cap from the Beau Biden Foundation.

Speaking to parliament, he said it was Beau Biden, who died in 2015 of brain cancer at the age of 46, who should be standing where he was.

“He should be the one standing here giving this speech to you,” Biden said.


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