Pope Benedict XVI has resigned his position as head of the Catholic Church to seek a new challenge, it has been reported from Rome.
A spokesman for Josef Ratzinger, who has immediately reverted to his pre-papacy name, told the stunned Catholic world: "In eight years in the top job, Josef has cemented the Roman church's position as one of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world. He leaves having achieved what he set out to achieve, and it is time for a new challenge in his career."
Speculation is now rife as to where Ratzinger will go, with leading pundits suggesting that Islam could finally be ready to adopt a more hierarchical structure with leadership under one man on earth. Mohammed Aqbal, a prominent West London Imam, has been quoted as saying: "Allah's dissatisfaction with having so many direct reports is well known. Josef has the sort of leadership experience and dogmatic style that could work for us. If they can thrash out a package then who knows." With earth-based supreme leadership in Islam having little precedent, Allah is likely to be flexible on the location of any new role - making it very attractive to Ratzinger.
Meanwhile a position in the Anglican Church seems unlikely. Queen Elizabeth II as Supreme Head is reportedly deterred by Ratzinger's wage demands, and Justin Welby as the newly-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury will be reluctant to work under a Technical Director.
Events early in Ratzinger's career make a move to Judaism all but impossible, although the money reportedly on offer from Israel could prove tempting.
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