A family holiday to Rome saw a lifelong dream come true for a devout Burnley Catholic who received an unexpected blessing from the Pope at the age of 92.
Mr Pat Fleming, a popular and well-known member of St John’s RC Church, Ivy Street, visited the worldwide home of the Catholic Church where an Audience with the Pope at the Vatican resulted in the Pontiff laying his hands on Pat’s head and blessing him.
Remarkably, this made a hat-trick of Papal blessings for lifelong Clarets fan Pat whose marriage to Eileen was first honoured 70 years ago by Pope Pius XII, and again last year on his platinum wedding anniversary from Pope Francis.
Sadly, Eileen died in February this year, and so Pat’s large loving family of seven children decided to arrange this special trip to Rome.
Eldest daughter Maureen Holgate said: “Dad has always said he would love to go to Rome. Following mum’s death we thought we would try to arrange it.
“We knew it would be hard work, given dad’s age and the fact he is now partially sighted, but we knew it would be worth it, although we had no idea it would result in another Papal blessing.
“My four sisters and I travelled with dad. We booked tickets for an Audience with the Pope at the Vatican and when we got there dad and I were ushered to the front.
“The Pope walked past us and shook dad’s hand but what happened later was just wonderful. After the service, the Pope walked past us but turned back, approached my dad, placed his hands on his head and blessed him.
“People from all over the world were there, crying and shouting ‘Papa’. It was a really emotional moment. Dad just kept saying he was the luckiest man in the world. We all had a wonderful time and it is something none of us will ever forget.”