"Holy Father, this is Mr Bono, and he is a singer, and has done a lot for the campaign." With those words, Bishop Diarmuid Martin introduced Bono to Pope John Paul II during a private audience yesterday at the Pope's summer residence, Castelgandolfo.
Bono, Bob Geldof, Quincy Jones and Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Sachs, were part of a delegation from the pressure group Jubilee 2000. They met the Pope to enlist his support for their call for action to resolve Third World debt.
The Jubilee 2000 delegation arrived in Rome ahead of next week's meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. When Bono presented the Pope with a copy of Seamus Heaney's Collected Poems, he also threw in his sunglasses, telling him he was "a great showman". True to the description, the Pope seized the shades and put them on, grinning mischievously.
Afterwards Bono made no attempt to hide his admiration for the Pope, saying: "How could you turn him down? You can see what a struggle it is for him physically, yet he made it seem easy to hang out with a bunch of pop stars and economists. I told him he was a great showman, the first funky Pontiff . . . "
That view was echoed by Bob Geldof. "I just hope that the spirit of humanity that guides him could move politicians. Then the final push of political will to eradicate this unnecessary tragedy would be easily achieved."
Neither of the stars was dressed according to normal Vatican protocol, with Bono in a black suit, white shirt and no tie, and Geldof in a brown jacket, check trousers and T-shirt.
Nor did the Pope seem to mind. Looking frail but sounding well, he delivered a strong statement which Bono said provided "as much backing as we could wish for".
Another delegation member, Salsa king Willie Colon, also joined in the chorus of new-found John Paul fan worship. I was really impressed . . . and I liked his shoes too."