A former head postmaster in Bradford is one of only 44 Catholics worldwide to receive a special honour from the Pope to mark his lifelong devotion to the church.

David Kennedy was a ten-year-old boy chorister at Our Lady of Lourdes and St William’s Church in Duncombe Street, Girlington, then aged 27 he became its organist and choirmaster and has led the musical worship ever since.

Now aged 69, Mr Kennedy told of his shock at getting the honour, entitled For the Church and the Pope – the highest praise which Pope Benedict XVI awards independently.

“It was a complete surprise. I only found out about it three weeks ago when a letter arrived,” said Mr Kennedy, of Allerton.

“My wife Jean was giggling as I opened it because she’d known I was getting it for three months.”

Mr Kennedy was recognised for his unswerving contribution to church music at St William’s.

“I’m not an honours sort of person, but it is obviously very important to me,” he said.

“I’ve done some research on the internet and apparently only 44 people out of many millions get this award every year.

“It’s one down from a Papal Knighthood, which is awarded by the Pope and his Cardinals.

“My family are saying it’s an award for turning up at the same church for 60 years!”

A former pupil of St Bede’s Catholic Grammar School, Mr Kennedy rose through the Royal Mail to become head postmaster of Huddersfield and then of Bradford, before becoming Regional Operations Director.

But throughout his professional life he remained at St William’s, giving his time to oversee the church’s spiritual music.

His five children and nine grandchildren are all musical and eldest son Jonathan is also an organist at St William’s.

“When I started we sang the mass in Latin and it was standing room only at every Christmas midnight mass,” Mr Kennedy recalled.

“The numbers may not be what they used to be, but the role of the music remains the same – to be uplifting and free the spirit for those wanting to communicate with God.”

When he was presented with the honour at St Williams, the church was full once again with well-wishers.