SPARE A THOUGHT for poor Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, who's been suffering under the strain of divided loyalties. The archbishop, who comes from Crosby, Merseyside, happens to be a staunch supporter of Liverpool FC, the team that snatched league cup victory from none other than Birmingham City FC, a club in his own diocese. If that wasn't bad enough, the reds are now just a game away from an FA cup final against either Arsenal or Spurs — both clubs in North London, the archbishop's former patch in Westminster.
Oh, the agony!
MEANWHILE, Archbishop Nichols has a row to clear up between his press officer, Peter Jennings, and Ruth Gledhill, tlw religious affairs correspondent of The Times, who last week contacted the archdiocese about a story about a priest who had unjustly been accused of abuse alleged to have taken place 40 years ago. But, according to Miss Gledhill, Mr Jennings said: "The last time we helped you, the story you wrote about Cardinal Newman was so appalling we have decided never to co-operate with you again." The startled hack then protested that perhaps a policy of non-co-operation was rather unprofessional. "On the contrary, it is very professional," Mr Jennings was believed to have told her Teenagers" actually referred to a story on the second page about the market for lurid magazines aimed at girls.
IS THE PREVAILING atmosphere of religious pluralism starting to look somewhat ridiculous? In New Zealand, Star Wars fans have launched a serious attempt to get "Jedi" recognised as an official religion. An e-mail campaign has been timed nicely to coincide with a national census because if 8,000 people register themselves as Jedi, the country must recognise the burgeoning sect.
IT SEEMS like our 80-year-old Pope has a liking for holy cheese, judging by the way he seemingly wound up Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell, a dedicated Catholic who had the good fortune to be granted an audience with him in Rome recently. According to The Daily Telegraph, John Paul II listened to her greeting, then said he was delighted to receive a minister from the Irish government. When Mrs Liddell tactfully pointed out that she was in fact a minister of the British Government, the pope was reported to have replied: -The British Government allows Roman Catholics to be minis ters? Since when?" • Nice one, your Holiness.
FINALLY, news has reached Lamb's Passage that the .50ft Millennium Cross, which was erected on the piazza of Westminster Cathedral. London, in honour of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, has become a popular meeting point for drug dealers and their clients. Is nothing sacred?