Denaby priest recalls day he met canonised pope

Father John Cooke meeting former pope John Paul II.
Father John Cooke meeting former pope John Paul II.

A Dearne priest has welcomed the canonisation of former Pope John Paul II - and also remembered a meeting he had with the man himself.

Father John Cooke, of St Alban’s Roman Catholic Church in Denaby, spoke briefly with the former pontiff at the Vatican during a holiday in Rome in April 2001.

He and a group of fellow priests were granted an audience with Pope John Paul II after they attended a morning mass service.

Fr Cooke said: “We wrote to the Vatican requesting an audience with him and we got a phone call to our hotel saying that our request had been accepted.

“There was a very small group of us went into a separate room and he said a few words to us all. Then we were called up one by one to meet him.

“I kissed his hand, which is a mark of respect, and he said ‘Happy Easter. God bless you.’

“I was only thinking the other day, ‘wow I have actually met a saint’.”

Pope Francis declared Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands on Sunday.

He praised his two predecessors as “men of courage” at the Vatican service, the first time in history that two popes have been canonised at the same time.

Fr Cooke, 63, said: “I was one of thousands of priests to meet Pope John Paul II.

“For Catholics, saints are our heroes. He met so many people during his lifetime and did so much good.

“I was so happy to see him made a saint. He was one of the most important figures of the last century.”