Archbishop of York gives the Pope a bottle of beer.

On official visits to meet the Pope, it is customary to provide a gift. Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister and recent Catholic convert, gave a painting of Cardinal Newman. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah presented him with a jeweled scimitar. So what did John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York (one of the highest ranking positions in the Anglican Church) give him? Beer.

When the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met the pontiff he gave him the Holy Grail, a beer brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire.

It was the highlight of the archbishop’s first trip to Rome to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and to cement cordial relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

Following their 15-minute chat in the Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura, believed to be the burial place of St Paul, Sentamu said: “I told the brewery I was meeting the Pope and they made a special brew for him. I heard he’d been given some Black Sheep ale and liked it. So I brought that and the Holy Grail.”

The gifts pleased the Pope, who is Bavarian by birth and prefers beer to wine and water. That the tipple was a one-off would have also suited a pontiff with designer flourishes. During a two-hour service, which was peppered with incense, chanting, coughing and ringtones, his ruby-red Prada loafers peeped out from under his ivory robes.

It’s perhaps slightly ironic that the beer is inspired by the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as it was another of the Python films, Life of Brian, that brought out much angst from the Anglican and Catholic churches over claims of blasphemy. Holy Grail is produced by the Black Sheep Brewery not far from York and is available for mail order.

Pope’s solution for the pedophile priest problem? Lots and lots of prayer!

There’s nothing like taking decisive action to correct a major problem. Too bad the Pope doesn’t seem to understand that. His idea of decisive action in dealing with the problem of pedophile priests is to wait five years after the church’s foundation has been rocked by the scandal and then command the churches to pray continuously for God to solve the problem:

Pope Benedict XVI has instructed Roman Catholics to pray “in perpetuity” to cleanse the Church of paedophile clergy. All dioceses, parishes, monasteries, convents and seminaries will be expected to organise continuous daily prayers to express penitence and to purify the clergy.

Vatican officials said that every parish or institution should designate a person or group each day to conduct continuous prayers for the Church to rid itself of the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy. Alternatively, churches in the same diocese could share the duty. Prayer would take place in one parish for 24 hours, then move to another.

The instruction was sent to bishops by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes of Brazil, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. He told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that he was acting in the Pope’s name. The Pope wanted Catholics to pray for the “mercy of God for the victims of the grave situations caused by the moral and sexual conduct of a very small part of the clergy”, he said.

Cause prayer works so well for sick people and sports teams. Thanks, Pope, for nothing. Which is about all your plan will add up to.

Link via Pharyngula.