Campaigner makes holy hat-trick by meeting his third Pope

Norman Imms pictured showing his invitation and beads to Acre Rigg Academy puplis(left to right) James Thompson, Joel Huntington, Hannah Pickering, Tom Lewis, Sophie Cowie and Emma-Leigh Ferrier.

Norman Imms pictured showing his invitation and beads to Acre Rigg Academy puplis(left to right) James Thompson, Joel Huntington, Hannah Pickering, Tom Lewis, Sophie Cowie and Emma-Leigh Ferrier.

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A LONG-SERVING campaigner has made it a holy hat-trick – after first meeting Pope John Paul II, then Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.

Norman Imms was invited to meet the newly-installed Pope last month.

Norman Imms meeting Pope Benedict.

Norman Imms meeting Pope Benedict.

He said Sister Prema, the head of the Worldwide Order of Missionaries charity and successor of Mother Teresa – who Norman met nine times between 1989 and 1997 – invited him to the Vatican in recognition of his charity work.

Norman, who lives with wife Cathy, 62, in Edenhill, Peterlee, described the experience as “all quite mind-blowing”.

The 68-year-old also recently attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in honour of his work with the Shishu Bhavan orphanage in Calcutta, run by Mother Teresa’s order.

He has forged links between the orphanage and Acre Rigg Academy, in Peterlee, having collected aid parcels from the school during the past 15 years.

Norman, a parent helper at the school, said during both of his recent visits, the youngsters received high praise from officials, including The Princess Royal.

Norman said: “Sister Prema prayed for the children and she said it was so nice to think that these children had never seen the orphans, yet they still helped them.

“It was the real cherry on the cake. Then she said she had another surprise for me – I got to meet Pope Francis. I kissed the Pope’s ring and he blessed me.

“It was so nice that the children were recognised – this is what it’s all about, the children of the world. I have been lucky to have made so many visits.”

The dad-of-three and grandfather-of-four met John Paul II six times in the 1990s and met Pope Francis’s predecessor in April last year.

During a recent visit to the school, he told the Acre Rigg pupils about his experiences and how The Princess Royal had “given encouragement” to them.

“The Princess Royal has actually visited the Shishu Bhavan orphanage and she said to pass on to all the children in the school a message of ‘keep up the good work’,” he said.