“I had, for all my adult life, been an atheist. Although as a baby I was baptised into the Church of England, I had rejected all things religious. I was critical of anybody’s faith and had very secular views on matters of conscience, for example.
“Around 2007 I was going through some difficult times in my personal life and my best friend (who eventually became my wife) helped me through those challenges. One of the things she said was: ‘In return, would you come with me to Mass?’
“Given the sort of guy I was at the time I said, very arrogantly, if I was going to go to Mass I wanted to do it properly and I suggested that we go to Mass in the Vatican. That summer we went on holiday to Rome.
“She often talked about Padre Pio and one of the places she wanted to visit while on holiday was San Giovanni Rotondo on the Adriatic coast, so having first gone to the Vatican I also agreed to visit San Giovanni.
“The day we arrived we went for a walk on the hillside by the original church and at the top there was a flat, paved area with an altar and a crucifix.
“I had always said that when I could see the holes in the hands and feet of Jesus myself then I would consider believing. It was very much a standard line – I wouldn’t take anything on belief, I wanted to see the evidence.
“On that hillside I looked up at the crucifix and Our Lord was there with the holes in his hands and his feet and in that instant – I wouldn’t say I believed, I wouldn’t say I decided to start believing – in that instant, I knew. I knew that I had been looking all these years without seeing Christ crucified. There he was in front of me and I then knew that God and Jesus Christ were true.
“My life has been upside down ever since. All my original views were turned upside down. It has cost me quite a few friendships and has probably cost me a political career but I cannot un-know what I now know.
“I went from being a pro-abortionist and so on to recognising the illogicality of those views. I was received into the Catholic Church about two years later at St Gregory’s Church in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent.”
Rob Flello is the former Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent. He was speaking to Simon Caldwell