Dying Lismore police officer blessed by Pope

THE only dream Senior Constable Gary Hill had was to go to Rome and attend a Mass with the Pope.

The 54-year-old devout Catholic and dedicated Lismore police officer never got to Rome, but he was personally blessed by Pope Benedict XVI at his rural retreat in Sydney on Wednesday.

Snr Const Hill has had repeated health battles in the past few years. In 2004, he was diagnosed with skin cancer, in 2005 he suffered a brain tumour, and in 2006 a heart tumour.

After his horror run of bad health, doctors gave him a slim chance of survival, but he overcame all the setbacks and returned to work. However, he was forced back into hospital last week after suffering brain seizures. He is currently in palliative care at St Vincent's Hospital.

Snr Const Hill's wife, Julie, said the experience with the Holy Father was 'awesome'.

'Gary was too sick to get off the stretcher, but the Pope took his hand and blessed him and gave him some blessed rosary beads,' she said.

'Then he took Gary's police hat off the stretcher and put it on his head. They asked me if I wanted his police hat back, but I just laughed and told them if the Pope wants it, he can keep it.

'Trust Gary to actually get the Pope into the NSW Police Force. Gary is a soft soul, a special person. It was wonderful and I would like to thank the police force and the medical staff for making this possible.'

Superintendent Bruce Lyons pulled a lot of strings to get his officer to meet the Pope, and the commander said he couldn't think of anyone more deserving of a papal blessing.

'Through all of his illness, Gary kept coming back to work. He is a very proud and dedicated police officer,' Supt Lyons said.

'Even if he had chemo that day, he would come in and finish his shift. He had next to no sick leave. I said to Gary, 'You are one-in-a-million and I know you are a man of strong faith, so I will do whatever I can to have you blessed by the Pope'.'

Supt Lyons, who has previously confessed his obsession for Akubra hats, smuggled in two of his beloved hats to give to the Pope.

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