PAT BONNER’S audience with John Paul II in 1990 had a profound effect on him.
Pat Bonner met Pope John Paul in 1990[/caption]
Pope John Paul II meeting the Bonner and the Republic of Ireland team[/caption]
Brendan Rodgers and his squad have been granted a private audience with the Pontiff at the Vatican tomorrow.
It’s an experience Bonner — whose own meeting came with Jack Charlton’s Irish squad during the Italia 90 World Cup — says the Hoops stars should treasure, no matter their faith.
The 63-year-old said: “It’s going to be one of those special moments in their lives that will never go away.
“It’s fantastic Brendan and the players are getting this opportunity.
“The audience the Republic ofplayers had with Pope John Paul II in 1990 was in front of 2,000 people in Rome.
“I see it’s a private audiencewill have on Wednesday morning, but regardless of how many will attend, it’s going to be an unforgettable experience for all concerned.
“It’s a beautiful moment, it was awe-inspiring for me to meet someone of that capacity.
“No matter whatthey are, it’s still going to be an occasion for the players meeting the Pope.
“Something like that really is an incredible life moment.
“Pope Francis might understand, too, like Pope John Paul II did when he spoke to me, big Jack and the team.
“I’ve got no doubts everyone in thewill forever cherish the audience with the Pope.”
Bonner’s memory of meeting John Paul II is as clear now as it was 33 years ago — and he still holds it as one of his most remarkable experiences.
He added: “His holiness John Paul II was a lovely, humble man — and obviously he later became a Saint.
“For me, a practising Catholic and nurtured by a faith that has sustained me throughout my life, it was an emotional and uplifting event. Growing up, I could never have envisaged an occurrence that would end up with me standing smiling at his Holiness.
“The fact he knew who I was, how I earned my living, and about my penalty save againstat that World Cup was incredible for me.
“He put his hand on my shoulder and inEnglish told me that he, too, had been a goalkeeper in his younger days.
“Or, as he called it, a ‘portiere’.
“I was transfixed by his presence and as a group, the lads were all elated.
“We all knew something quite special had just occurred.
“Football has given me so many unforgettable moments and amazing privileges on and off the field.
“And that meeting with Pope John Paul II is right at the top.”
The late, great Charlton also played his own part in making the whole occasion unforgettable.
Bonner said: “The Pope addressed the crowd mostly in Italian.
“But when it came to us he broke into English, talking about the Irish team.
“It was before we playedin Rome.
“Jack frequently told the story of him nodding off during some sermons only to be woken up as the Pope gave his blessing.
“At one point he thought the Holy Father was waving at him, so of course he waved back!”