Belfast priest speaks of a year that changed his life

 The parish priest who ran a gauntlet of hate with the children of Holy Cross School, Belfast has spoken of the inspiration he gained from the children's courage and forgiveness. Father Aidan Troy CP, preached on Sunday at the annual pilgrimage of Blessed Dominic Barberi CP, in his shrine of St Anne and Blessed Dominic, St Helens, Merseyside. He spoke how the past year in Belfast had changed his life. Fr Troy walked every day for three months with the 225 girls to Holy Cross Primary in the Ardoyne escorted by the security forces, as baying Loyalists tried to block their path. "During those days my ability to carry on came from the children not the other way round. Every week they would come with a gift or a card or something. "One said to me 'I forgive those people maybe they don't mean it.' It would bring tears to my eyes." Said Fr Troy: "The children took that road in the most amazing spirit of forgiveness. Every day we were spat on. "I have never washed my hair so much in my life. Once there was a bomb while on other occasions balloons were filled with urine." "They were jeered. One day when a little girl fell and hurt herself the crowd cheered." He added: "Those children took that road no matter what. They simply wanted to go to school there was no other agenda. "Often when there is there are always two sides. Unfortunately that is not true in this case. It is hard to say, and it breaks my heart to say this, but it was an attack on the human rights of the children that is the only reason I stood with those children. "The Heart of Christ is torn asunder when one of these little ones is hurt touched with hatred or violence." Fr Troy spoke of how the experience in the past year, after eight years in the Passionist HQ in Rome, had changed his life. "Here is the Providence of God. I believe God offered me the most astounding grace in going to Belfast. For the first time in my life I began to realise what Our Lord meant when he said unless you enter the Kingdom of God like a little child." He drew parallels with Blessed Dominic who also had to face angry mobs who barracked him and threw missiles in the street. Speaking to Independent Catholic News after Mass Fr Troy said the trauma had produced positive signs: "The children gave courage to their parents. It has brought the parents together which would not have been there without those terrible things." Fr Troy said numbers were down for next year's intake of pupils but added work to bring the communities together would continue.

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