Levels of papal interference into international affairs is set to rise this week, with the unveiling in the Vatican of a bigger, more-eye catching papal oar, shortly to be stuck into the global argument about the Middle East.
"His holiness has always been expected to stick his oar into international affairs, but in past years the holy oar seems to have diminished in significance," said a Vatican spokespriest. "It is essential that the Holy Father is allowed to middle in the Meddle East, and this new bigger, better shinier and even holier oar, designed by Vatican specialists, is guaranteed to attract attention."
The oar will be in encrusted with holy emeralds, rubies and diamonds and partially edged with holy gold. It will fit snugly into a pair of papal rowlocks and kept in an extra special cupboard when not being used for trying to influence world affairs. The ensemble is rumoured to be worth £17 million, and will go on show in Rome briefly, before the oar is irritatingly stuck into the controversy about Syria, diverting attention from the stand off between the USA and Russia, and reminding everyone that the Pope is a regular kind of guy and related to God at the same time.
"The ritual significance of the oar is key to our beliefs," explained Monsignor Eddie Smythe of the Purple Papal Pupil educational trust. "It recalls when Jesus got friendly with fishermen in the Middle East and borrowed one of their oars to stick into the Roman politics of the time. He also had a shepherd's crook for the same kind of thing. Symbolically, wood was big in those days, but effective wood preservative was in short supply and fire precautions were rudimentary. Hence the decorative upgrades to the holy bits and pieces over the years. It's our job to add a bit of showbiz, to get attention, and also to show off bits of old blackened wood and claim they could very well have holy powers." Meanwhile evidence that Jesus also had a holy snooker cue and a "fairly holy" cricket bat is being examined by scientific experts in the quite Holy Land.
But Protestant groups round the world have protested at what they call "a publicity stunt", saying that they too would like to get some attention, but "they wouldn't touch the Papal Oar with a quilted bargepole." The Bargepole, quilted by members of the Girl Guides, will go on show in Westminster Abbey later this year.
In a separate but parallel development, Sooty's first ever magic wand, also made of wood (believed to be teak) and thought to date back to the popular bear's birth in 1948, is to be auctioned at Christies as part of a collection of "Sootiphenalia", including a partially perished water pistol and green flares once worn by Matthew Corbett. Asked about the sum his wand expected to fetch, Sooty was "tight lipped".