I am not a saint, I am a sinner" says Giovanni Vecchio as he snips at a customer's hair in his barber's shop in a side street of a workaday Rome suburb. "But I have known a saint." He pauses, scissors in mid-air. "In fact, I have cut his hair".
If - or when - the late Pope John Paul II is canonised, it will be in part thanks to Mr Vecchio. Over 30 years ago, when the barber's shop he worked in was near the Vatican, a Polish prelate called Karol Wojtyla wandered in, sat down, and had his hair cut. He became a regular customer.
Mr Vecchio had no idea who "Father Karol" was, still less that he was to become "papabile". "He told me once he was bishop of Krakow, but to me they were all priests. I called them all Father".
But the encounter changed his life: last year, when he was entering hospital in great pain for a hernia operation, he saw a black and white photograph of John Paul II as a young man hanging at the entrance, and "our eyes met". Shortly afterwards, he was discharged. The hernia - and the pain - had miraculously disappeared. Read more