Back in July, a Holy Roman bombshell was dropped on Britain in the form of a twelve million pound reverse charge call from the Vatican State.

Lord Patten bit his lip and revised the cost of the Pope’s September State visit from £8 to £12 million. The British tax payer must now dig a little deeper for the spare change. As Chris grinned nervously at the assembled press, his internal monologue was all too audible –

“What’s four more for the Holy of Holies?”

Anyone clamouring that State visits are integral to the political process should think again. The Vatican State is not a country, a kingdom, father or motherland. It’s just a big-ass Cathedral with a few pretty pictures. Its only exports have been Mafioso bankers and men with a penchant for pederasty. The ‘flag’ really sums it up. Keys over a crown - we’ve got lots of stuff but you can’t have any of it.

I acknowledge that thousands of British Catholics are about to get the gig of a lifetime. History is in the making. We haven’t seen that squid-like hat since 1982, when Jean Paul came galavanting onto a British beach. His current Heavenly Highness, Ratty J, will descend on the jewels of the crown (London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Coventry) and shower his adoring fans with bumper stickers - ‘’Honk if you’re hetrosexual” or ‘’My other car is consecrated.” Not that I have a problem with Catholic beliefs – hardline, creationist dogma is a niche and should be allowed a look-in. But why, in a recession deeper than the doctrine, are we financing the Popemobile, Airforce Angels and a red carpet that will run from John o’Groats to Land’s End?

This must be the most expensive package holiday ever envisaged. How – in God’s Name – can it cost so much? Security, it seems, accounts for the biblical price tag. Obviously we can’t stick his Holiness on Stonehenge, give him a bag of cod and chips, and expect him to fare for himself. That would be unchristian - cold blooded even. A thousand secular vigilantes would blast him from this unprotected pulpit. Even so, twelve million pounds for a couple of flak jackets? Stick him in a tank, stuff a plastic Jesus in the gun turret and don’t let anyone called Dawkins near the slack tracks.

We used to do security on a shoestring. Old Queen Vic had more assassination attempts than the Pope and the President combined. A sturdy bonnet and her all-black combat wardrobe saw her through a host of plots, from bedlam’s finest to a bald bloke with a sword for a stick.

Way back in the summer of ’42 – 1142 that is - we had a Pope of our own.  Adrian IV - real name Nic Breakspear (a bit feistier than Shakespeare) – wasn’t all bad, far superior to Adrians I to III at any rate. Apparently, he died choking on a fly in his wine, providing a grand curtain call as the first and last English Pope. If Ratzinger hailed from Brighton, rather than Bavaria, we wouldn’t have to break another piggy bank. On the flip side Gay Pride would be an annual massacre and our teenage pregnancy rate would finally fell the NHS.

If we are in the business of financing Italian imports for the popular good, how about getting a herd of buffalo? Nothing like a free slice of mozzarella with your ham and eggs. I actually believe in buffalo, which is more than I can say for His Eminence. Just imagine it - twelve million pounds worth of cheese. Better than a stale biscuit and a drop of incense. 

Make way little Britons and prepare the path for The Holy See! There’d better be some bloody good miracles.