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Day trip to Rome brings Jesus to tears

Recently, Jesus visited Earth. His companion, a former fisherman, was nervous.

They travelled first to vast lands of the grimmest poverty: India, Latin America, Africa and parts of their own Holy Land. Jesus wept. "Yes, the poor are always with us."

Next, Peter showed him New York, London, Paris. Jesus was angry. Why don't these rich nations help the poorer?

Next stop, Rome. They landed outside a huge basilica, beside a gigantic palace. "Ah," sighed Jesus, "so the caesars still rule."

Peter said: "These belong to Christians."

"Who?"

Peter coughed. "Your followers."

"My what! How did they pay for that building?"

"By selling Indulgences," said Peter, but could we discuss that another time?"

"That palace, how many rooms?" Peter said 11,000.

"So the poor live there?"

"No, Lord, the Emperor and his staff together with expensive works of art. He calls himself Pope. He used to call himself Vicar of Peter."

"Poor you," said Jesus.

"Now he calls himself Vicar of Christ."

"Is he crazy?" fumed Jesus. "I was born in a stable. Why isn't he in Jerusalem? And why call himself my Vicar?"

"Because he's Bishop of Rome like me," said Peter.

"Were you Bishop of Rome?"

"No. He thinks he's infallible like me."

"But," said Jesus, "you made appalling mistakes. You even tried to stop me getting crucified."

At the entry gate a line of limos went through carrying empurpled gents.

"Your apostles from a place called Ireland, Lord. Come to tell your Vicar about thousands of children sexually abused by their key assistants."

"Did they throw them in the sea?"

Peter didn't reply because at the gate, officials in wasp-like uniforms barred their way. Tapping his old robe, Peter whispered, "We're not dressed right."

Jesus said, "I only want to ask why the art works aren't sold to help the poor?"

A ceremony was going on in the basilica, so in they walked. The size of it, the grandeur! Being a Jew, Jesus hated statues, especially those of someone with fair skin and gold hair meant to be him. A man in a white skullcap and gorgeous robes was officiating on a raised platform with gold utensils. Surrounded by old men in scarlet called Princes of the Church was his Vicar. Peter glumly said he's also called the Holy Father. Jesus objected.

"Call only God Father and he alone is holy. What's he up to?"

"Celebrating your death on Calvary."

"But I was nailed naked to a cross."

"Your Vicar is the Great High Priest."

"Doesn't he know I'm a Jewish layman? My first visit to earth was painful," Jesus said, in tears, "but this is ridiculous."


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