After introductions had been made, they sat down to a lovely meal. When the dessert stage was reached the Pope signaled to his
secretary who rose, and beckoning to the priest to follow him, left the room. After about 15 minutes the Pope recalled them and the meal concluded normally. Nothing was said about what happened during their absence.
It was time to leave, and as they crossed St Peter’s Square, the priest, overcome with curiosity asked eagerly what had transpired
whilst they were away from the room.
The Beggar’s Story
This is what the beggar told him:
When I was alone with the Holy Father he turned to me, and said:
“Father, please here my confession”. In great confusion, and distress, I replied: “I cannot do that. I have renounced the priesthood. My priestly faculties have been taken from me. I am no longer a priest”. He looked at me with loving compassion. Then he raised his right hand, and wagging his finger at me, said:
“ONCE A PRIEST, ALWAYS A PRIEST”. After a long pause he told me: “As Bishop of Rome and Head of the Catholic Church I could
restore your priestly faculties to you . . . but you would have to ask”. I was overwhelmed and close to tears as I said simply ‘Please Holy Father . . . please!’
Then he heard my confession and restored to me my priesthood. Afterwards he repeated his original request and I heard the confession
of Pope John Paul II.
After a pause for prayers and meditation he said: ‘When you leave here I want you to go to the church where you have been begging and
seek out the parish priest, I am appointing you curate in that parish with special responsibility for the beggars who seek alms at the church door’.