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.
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, 68, who lives with wife Cathy, 62, in the Edenhill area of Peterlee, described the experience as “all quite mind-blowing”.
Norman 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 close links between the orphanage and Acre Rigg Academy, in Peterlee, having collected many aid parcels from the school over the past 15 years.
Norman, a parent helper at the school, said during both of his recent prestigious visits, the youngsters received high praise from officials, including Princess Anne.
Former midwife 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 very 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’ predecessor in April last year.
On May 30, Norman and Cathy attended a Royal Garden Party where he was among thousands of other community stalwarts.
During a recent visit to the school he told the Acre Rigg pupils about his experiences, and how Princess Anne had “given encouragement” to Acre Rigg pupils.
“Princess Anne 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.
Norman has previously told how praying with Mother Teresa helped cure him of the paranoid schizophrenia and manic depression.