Fr. Andrew Campbell (right) in a warm handshake with is Holiness Pope Francis
Fr. Andrew Campbell (right) in a warm handshake with is Holiness Pope Francis
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"It was like sitting with a saint"; Father Campbell on how he felt meeting Pope Francis

Father Andrew Campbell, a dedicated servant of the marginalised in Ghana, realised a long-held dream when he sat down for a heartfelt encounter with His Holiness Pope Francis.

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The meeting took place on May 27, 2024.

Father Campbell has over five decades been caring for lepers in Ghana.

Father Campbell spoke to the portal, Catholic Trends after the apostolic encounter and narrated events leading to the meeting with the Pope and likened the encounter to a meeting with a "saint".

Fr. Andrew Campbell and his team sitting with His Holiness Pope Francis.

"When I realised I was 50 years taking care of the lepers at Weija, I said, I must do something to commemorate 50 years of serving the marginalised in Weija. So I said, let me go to Rome. Let me go and meet the Holy Father," he said.

Despite encountering obstacles along the way to achieving his goal, Father Campbell said he remained undeterred in his resolve to meet Pope Francis.

"I always admired him. He is a man of the poor. A man of the marginalised, you know and I wanted one day to shake hands with him. So, that's the reason why I wanted to come to Rome and that's what I did today. I feel so happy," he said.

Father Campbell said the meeting was characterised by warmth and genuine concern.

Ghana's Ambassador to Italy, Mrs. Merene Botsio Benyah, and her husband, Mr. Henry Benyah, as well as board member of the Lepers Aid Committee, Mr. Gabriel Asempa Antwi and his wife Mrs. Priscilla Asempa Antwi, joined Father Campbell for the visit to Pope Francis.

Fr. Andrew Campbell and his team in a group photo with His Holiness Pope Francis.

"It was a little chat with them, you know, we were five of us. He just had a chat with us, he listened to us," Father Campbell recalled, highlighting the Pope's ability to make everyone feel valued and understood.

During their conversation, Father Campbell shared insights into his work with the lepers of Ghana, underscoring the challenges faced by the most vulnerable members of society.

"I talked about my work with the lepers. We have been working in different settlements in Ghana. How we take care of them and look after them. How they are marginalised and how they are forgotten."

He continued that, "I talked about the most neglected people, you know, in Ghana. And then I'm always begging for assistance because the cost of drugs, the cost of food, the cost of utilities and others are high. I told him I am a begger priest. Always asking people to come and help in one way or the other.  So I told him about the lepers and the hundred thousand street children on the streets of Accra. I work with prostitutes. I work with prisoners. So I mentioned all these people."

Fr. Andrew Campbell and his team presenting a citation to His Holiness Pope Francis.

In response, Pope Francis offered words of encouragement, saying "Encouraged, don't give up. Keep on going. Keep on going. Keep on going, don't give up, don't give up."

"You are brave Father, your brave. What did Jesus do? Jesus' work was a work of healing. Bringing love and hope and care to the poor and the needy. You're doing the work of Jesus," Pope Francis said.

Reflecting on the experience, Fr. Campbell likened the encounter to sitting with a saint. "It was like sitting with a Saint, you know, this man is such a wonderful man. A man of prayer. A man of courage. And it was just wonderful, just being in his library, sitting down beside him in his office and chatting with him. It is certainly something I will never forget in my life," Fr. Campbell expressed.

Drawing inspiration from Saint Teresa of Kolkata, India, Fr. Andrew Campbell has devoted his life to serving the impoverished and marginalised communities of Ghana. His impact has been profound, particularly in his efforts to support street children, individuals afflicted by disabilities like leprosy, and those who face systemic disadvantages within society.

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