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St. Louisans reflect on Pope John Paul II visit in 1999

Specially designed papal throne had hollow compartments for bullet-resistant materials
Scott Kennebeck sings during Pope John Paul II visit to St. Louis in 1999.

ST LOUIS- The Department of Homeland Security is hard at work to make sure all of the stops are safe for the historic visit from Pope Francis this week.

And here in St. Louis, we've discovered the security detail took some unusual steps to keep Pope John Paul the Second safe for his visit here in 1999.

Thousands packed the Edward Jones Dome to celebrate mass with the pope on that memorable day in January of 1999.

For the St. Louisans who were there that day-- it's something they will never forget.

Photos: Relics, artifacts from 1999 STL papal visit

At the time historians say it was the largest gathering of people under a single roof.

And one local who has several reasons to cherish that memory is Scott Kennebeck. Kennebeck served as the cantor for Pope John Paul II's visit in 1999, and his personal connection goes even deeper than that.

Kennebeck's dad helped design the papal throne the pope used for the mass at the dome. It was custom built with compartments that had bullet-proof Kevlar installed just to be on the safe side.

But what Kennebeck remembers most about that visit was the profound spiritual experience of being in the presence of the leader of the world billion Catholics -- the direct successor to St. Peter.

"We could sense something was going on inside the dome, you could hear the shouts of joy throughout the complex. And when they came into the dome there was just an eruption of sound and joy. And that's what Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul II, brought with him everywhere he went," Kennebeck said.

And now that John Paul II is a saint, some of the materials from the 1999 visit at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis are what's known as second-class relics. 

And you can see them in person in the mosaic museum at the cathedral. It's open 10-4 daily; a small $2 donation is suggested.

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