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Devout deputy prays for miracle workmanship as papal trip nears

A devoutly Catholic deputy head has been given the ultimate honour: to design and make a chair, altar and lectern for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain.

Design and technology teacher Ian Hall is now putting the finishing touches to the wooden liturgical furniture to be used by the pontiff when he gives an open-air mass at Cofton Park in Birmingham on September 19.

Every last second of Mr Hall's spare time has been spent working on the wood and stained-glass project that he designed with a team of three teachers at Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Coventry.

The school was chosen to carry out the holy carpentry partly because the mass will include the beatification of the school's namesake, the Victorian educationalist, theologian and writer Cardinal John Henry Newman.

As new evidence has emerged that the cardinal performed a miracle by curing a man's spinal condition, the Vatican has decided to offer him a step up the ladder to sainthood. Also, on the Pope's last visit to Britain in 1982, the Birmingham archdiocese selected the school to make a chair for John Paul II, and another design technology teacher, Roger Fawcett, was happy to oblige.

Mr Hall, who worked as a pattern cutter before becoming a teacher, said: "For a Catholic to be asked to do this is like a golfer being asked to play for Europe in the Ryder Cup. For me, it's more than just building furniture, it's an expression of my faith."

Headteacher Carol Buchanan added: "Someone said: 'If the Pope falls off and hurts himself, health and safety officers will be the last thing you'll need to worry about.'"

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