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Pope Meets Campaigner Philomena Lee Whose Son Was Sold By Nuns

Pope Francis meeting Philomena Lee in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.
Pope Francis meeting actor Steve Coogan and Philomena Lee in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. Vatican, Feb. 5, 2014. Courtesy of the Philomena Project

An Irish Catholic woman whose child was sold by nuns to an adoptive American family said she was “honored and delighted” Wednesday after meeting Pope Francis.

Philomena Lee was an unwed, pregnant teenager when her family sent her to the Sean Ross Abbey in Rosecrea, Ireland in 1952. After giving birth to her son Anthony, she was allowed to see him for one hour a day until he was sold for adoption to a St. Louis family, aged three.

After keeping her secret for 50 years she spoke out and with the founding of the Philomena Project she became a campaigner for thousands of other women whose children ended up in U.S. cities such as St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston and New York after being forced into adoption.

“I have always put great faith in the Church and the goodwill to put the wrongs of the past right,” Lee said after meeting the Pontiff. “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.”

Lee was in Rome ahead of a press event for a new movie about her life.