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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Flight attendant Christian Marin never imagined he’d have the chance to ask Pope Francis to personally bless his cherished 1916 bible and he certainly never dreamed he’d be with the pontiff on every leg of his trip to the United States.

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“The most difficult thing was not being able to tell anyone, not even my mom,” said Marin.

Marin works for American Airlines. He was sworn to secrecy when the airline selected him to be part of the Papal Charter. American shuttled the pope around the U.S. and back to Rome on what was dubbed “Shepard One.”

“I said, ‘Okay, when is this going to happen?’ and they said ‘September 24th you will initiate’ and I said, ‘September 24?’ and they said, ‘yes, September 24’ and I just could not believe it because that’s my birthday,” said Marin.

On his 49th birthday, Marin met the pope.

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“When he arrives our hearts were pounding,” said Marin. “And then you realize, he is the most simple and humble person that exists!”

Christian, of all names, is a devote Catholic who’s made pilgrimages to the Vatican and followed the last three popes but this went far beyond anything he’d ever experienced.

“The first time we shake hands with him, it’s like touching someone incredibly special,” said Marin. “You feel such a presence on his soft hand. It’s like really unbelievable.”

The moment that will always remain in Marin’s memory came five hours into the flight to Rome.

“I said, ‘I cannot believe that in front of me I’m seeing the pope sleeping.’ He just look like an angel, it was just the most surreal moment of my whole experience,” said Marin.

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Marin said in his career he feels quite lucky he’s been able to meet many very famous people, from celebrity to royalty but when it comes to most meaningful, he says Pope Francis is right there at the top.

Ted Scouten