Brian Clarke: 'We had a private conversation. I was moved by his modesty'

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The Independent Online

When I was asked to take on the job of designing a stained-glass window for the Papal Nunciate, I agreed, mainly because I really liked the Nuncio. Yesterday morning, in consequence, I was rewarded by meeting the Pope, who spent some time talking to me.

He told me he greatly liked my work, and he admired some he had seen in Munich, where he had been Archbishop. Unfortunately, we did not get as far as swapping old Munich stories, but he was very complimentary.

I was rather taken by him. He seemed very gentle and disarmingly humble for someone in his position.

Of course, you do not become best mates with the Pope after meeting him for a morning, but my initial impression was one of great warmth. Even to a non-Catholic, he was prepossessing. He carried with him the gravitas of the Papacy but none of the pomposity you might expect would come with it.

I am not a Christian, I am a 21st century artist but I recognise the close bond the Catholic Church and art have always had.

I have known artists like Paul McCartney and Francis Bacon for decades, while I only met the Pope yesterday. But I recognise human dignity when I see it in a man, that is what I saw yesterday. That is the reason I would not like to divulge the specifics of a private conversation with the Pope.

Suffice to say that I was moved by his modest nature and lack of pretence. From our conversation, I was not left with the impression of an egotistical man, but of one who seemed to enjoy the company of normal people as much as that of the numerous dignitaries he must surely have met on this tour. He even seemed a little shy and slightly embarrassed by all of the attention.