A Scottish woman who may have only months to live has fulfilled her wish of a pilgrimage to Rome thanks to a stream of online donations.
Corinne Barber, 42, from Leith, Edinburgh, also received a blessing from Pope Francis during a general audience.
Barber, who has a complex congenital heart defect, described it as the “journey of a lifetime”. She said: “I feel more energised and more focused than I have done in years.”
She made the pilgrimage with her mother Irene Barber and her husband Andrew and spent the week in the Vatican City. The trip – which was made possible by well-wishers from her GoFundMe page and the office of the Archbishop of Edinburgh – also included a private tour of the Vatican.
Barber said: “The whole experience has been beautiful and extremely emotional. I have had the honour of seeing the Sistine chapel, the Apostolic Palace and have been brought to tears visiting the chambers under the Basilica and seeing the bones of St Peter. But, of course, the highlight of my trip was receiving the blessing from Pope Francis.”
“The walk through the Vatican and into the general audience was like a journey back in time. It was almost as though the scene may have been trapped in amber for hundreds of years. The sound of voices echoed around the square some lifted in song, some in greeting and some in laughter but they all fell silent as the audience began.
“Towards the end of the service Pope Francis descended and moved to meet those in wheelchairs personally. He walked among us – greeting and touching the hands of many. Then he stopped in front of me and touched my head and blessed me. It was the most wonderful experience imaginable. Afterwards, I went back to my hotel and slept solidly for six hours.”
Corinne’s brother Darren Barber, 43, from North Berwick, East Lothian, who set up the GoFundMe fundraising page, said: “The whole family would like to thank everyone who has supported the GoFundMe campaign and made this trip a reality for Corinne. For myself, I would like to say to those who donated that no matter how much you gave it would not have happened without you. Take any one of those kind and generous people out and the trip wouldn’t have happened.
“It has been a truly challenging and wonderful experience which has inspired me to now consider making ‘Corinne’s Wish’ a formal charity that will help others. It’s very early days but I would love to help other people and do it all again, if I possibly can.”
Archbishop Leo Cushley said: “We are thrilled that Corinne finally made a pilgrimage to the Vatican and also that she received an audience with Pope Francis. It’s a dream come true or, rather, a prayer answered and we were delighted to play our part, along with many others, in making it happen.”