LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Preparations are underway at the Vatican for Sunday’s canonization of two former Popes.

One local man is watching with personal eagerness and excitement.

Tony Melendez says his life was forever changed nearly three decades ago when he got to meet Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles.

CBS2’s Serene Branson said locally on Sunday a canonization vigil is scheduled to take place at LA’s largest church, Our Lady of the Angels.

She watched this evening as Melendez prepared a musical tribute.

Listening to Melendez sing and play, she says, you’d never guess  that he was born without arms.

Born in Nicaragua, Melendez grew up in Chino. He said at 25, his life changed.

“Can’t become a fireman. Can’t climb the ladder, hold the hose. Didn’t have the hands,” said Melendez.

He might have gotten down on himself, and his challenges, but a meeting with the then-Pope at the Universal Amphitheatre changed all that.

“A Papal kiss. I became hope to the world,” said Melendez.

Melendez was asked to play for the Pope and he was also singled out.

“Just because he kissed me people wanted to hear the music, they wanted to hear the stories and maybe hear the testimony of Tony Melendez a toe-picking guitarist,” he says.

He began recording around the world.

“From little churches in the middle of nowhere to the Vatican to corporate venues,” he says.

In preparing for the music vigil, he knows he owes the late Pontiff so much.

“He will be a living legacy in my heart until I die,” says Melendez, “To me he deserves it.”



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