AN IRISH community has started a petition and even appealed to Pope Francis not to move an inspirational priest from their diocese.
Fr Chris O'Donnell, of the Diocese of Limerick's youth ministry, is due to be relocated to Dublin later this year after 12 years in the city.
The 43-year-old priest is moving away for a year in order to author a textbook for primary school children, but his parishioners are so fond of him that they don’t want him to go at all.
Over 1,500 people have added their names to a petition to get Fr O’Donnell their “favourite priest” to stay put, and if that wasn’t enough, they’ve even contacted the Pontiff himself.
The petition says that “Fr Chris has touched the lives of many young people and has been an integral part of youth development in Limerick and is known for bringing different branches and sections of the youth together in the most amazing and multiple ways!
"Limerick cannot afford to lose this amazing man and we must petition together and try to keep him!"
— Grainne Buckley (@grainneb18) June 29, 2017
One admirer of Fr O'Donnell said: "Fr Chris is an inspiration to all who meet him. He gives of his time freely and gets involved with local fundraisers...those who know him well remember him wowing audiences with his salsa routine at the Adare Strictly Come Dancing.
"He is truly amazing and needs to stay. Hope this petition falls on the right ears."
Meanwhile, a barrage of tweets have been sent to @Pontifex, the Pope’s official Twitter account, under the hashtag #keepourhero trying to stop the relocation.
One parishioner told the Pope: “Please keep Father Chris in Limerick, he is beloved by all youth in Limerick and has a big influence on all of us #keepourhero.”
While another added: “Please don't let our beloved Father Chris be relocated from Limerick, his unbelievable work here is irreplaceable #keepourhero.”
— TheRealReeceCreed (@_ReeceCreed) June 29, 2017
Fr O'Donnell told Today FM that he hasn’t seen the messages as he isn’t on Twitter, but that he was touched by the reaction to his move.
He said: "If anything it shows us young people are very passionate, good and willing to have our backs if we need it.
“The Pope is probably quite busy at the best of times, I’m not really sure how much of it really gets it him... I would be there for a year but I’d still be connected to the Youth Ministry in Limerick. I’ll be largely between the two."
He added: "As much as they love me, I love them, and I think that the reaction in the last few days is a reflection of the work we do in the youth ministry as much as the personalities involved.”