City dad to witness Pope’s canonisation at the Vatican

Kevin Lonergan holding the hand of Pope John Paul II at a general audience in 1992
Kevin Lonergan holding the hand of Pope John Paul II at a general audience in 1992
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A dad of four is to join hordes of people in Rome to witness the canonisation of the late Pope John Paul II.

Kevin Lonergan from Preston met the Pope at an audience in 1992, and is now returning to the Vatican to see him being declared a saint tomorrow.

Pope John Paul II is due to be canonised at the same time as Pope John XXIII, and Kevin said he couldn’t wait to join the crowds and experience the atmosphere.

Kevin, who works at Galloway’s Society for the Blind in Penwortham, said: “20 years ago, I was holding the hand of what I felt was a saint then - a humble person who was changing the world.

“Certain people have influences on our lives, and he had a big influence. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a priest or not, and now Galloway’s is like a way of life and a different vocation.”

Kevin, a sight advice centre manager, said he eventually managed to track down a photograph of himself with the Pope. He said: “For the next day I went around kiosks and eventually I found it and I’ve kept it and treasured it.”

Kevin said he couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s historic service. He said: “I’m really looking forward to it.

“There’s never been two popes alive on the same day or canonised on the same day, so it’s a one-off. It will never happen in our life time again.

“I’m most looking forward to the atmosphere - when you go to these places there’s an atmosphere of faith and if you have faith it’s strengthened.

“It’s a spectacle, but it’s quite solemn in a way.”

As Pope John Paul II is canonised in Rome, the British Commercial Vehicle Museum is offering visitors the chance to stand in the same spot as the Pope when he visited in 1982.

The Leyland museum houses the Popemobile from Pope John Paul II’s visit to the UK, and museum manager Keith Moyes said: “The Popemobile is a popular exhibit at the museum, both with school children and adults. Visitors are amazed that they can stand in the actual spot in the Popemobile vehicle where Pope John Paul II stood in 1982.

“It is wonderful news that he is being declared a saint and we hope more people will now visit the museum to experience the vehicle.”