The headline in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post might read: "Pope to Rupert -- I Forgive You."
Yesterday in London, a spokesman for the acquisitive Australian media baron trumpeted yet another miraculous acquisition: His Holiness the Pope, John Paul II, would write a weekly column for Murdoch's newspapers around the world.
Arthur Brittenden, corporate relations director for Murdoch's News International, said the Vatican and News America, Murdoch's North American operation, signed the contract last week.
"I imagine the pope will write on whatever he wants and it will go straight into the paper," Brittenden told Reuters. "I think it will be of such enormous value that people will want the original thing, word for word."
The announcement raised all manner of philosophical concerns: Who would have the clout to edit the pope? Would papal insights share the page with mayhem and bikinis? And would the columns be called "Pontifications"?
A few hours after yesterday's announcement, however, a Vatican spokesman denied everything.
"This is something out of a fairy tale world," said Monsignor Giulio Nicolini in Vatican City. "It doesn't even merit an official denial . . . It is laughable."
All newspapers, he added, have the Vatican's blessing to reprint the pope's public speeches and writings whenever they want. "The more people take them, the more pleased we are," he said. "They don't need to sign a contract with the Vatican."