In response to security concerns arising from recent Al-Qaeda threats to the person of the Holy Father, and equally to the alarming news that the number of Moslems worldwide has just exceeded (for the first time) the number of Catholics, researchers at the Vatican’s high-tech Apostolic Institute for Experimental Laboratories”a Jesuit congregation founded in 1692″have announced plans to “update and entirely re-imagine” the rather homely, bullet-proof “Popemobile” in use since the 1980s. Archbishop Arlecchino de Favole, S.J., secretary of the Congregation told the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano this Sunday. “While the current design will deflect most modern munitions, including armor-piercing bullets, it leaves the Holy Father vulnerable to shoulder-fired missiles, grenades, and biological attacks,” said the 78-year-old physicist, a veteran of Charles De Gaulle’s successful quest for an independent French nuclear deterrent. “And that is simply unacceptable.”
The new papal vehicle is also rather “quaint and clunky,” de Favole admitted. “It hardly represents the best in Italian automotive design. The thing putters along like one of those pitiful ‘Smart Cars’ Italians have been reduced to driving. (This, in the land of the Ferrari!) That gives the wrong impression about the papacy, and the person of Pope Benedict. It suggests that the Church is an institution wedded to the past”theologically, politically, and in terms of engineering.” What is required, de Favole, opined over a liter of Lacrima Christi, “is a vehicle that asserts at once the centrality of the Church to the development of Western science, and our full engagement with the technical and ethical questions that face post-modern man.” De Favole noted that Pope Benedict XVI is deeply interested in issues of biotechnology and advanced cybernetic design. “There hasn’t been a pope this concerned with modern science since Pius XII.”
Indeed, it was Pope Benedict himself who insisted on the development of the new vehicle, which was funded entirely by grants from “a Greek shipping magnate who is very pro-Catholic, but wishes to remain anonymous.” The new Popemobile, the pontiff decreed, “should be more like the Batmobile.”
According to the engineering specifications provided to this reporter by a highly placed source in the relevant congregation, the new Popemobile will be capable of speeds up to 200 kph., and will be airtight, with an internal oxygen supply lasting up to 90 minutes. Entirely submersible, it will allow Pope Benedict, at need, to navigate the waters of the Tiber River in case of attack, permitting him to emerge safely kilometers away from the site of any incident”or return fire against terrorists threatening Catholic pilgrims, employing any of four M230 30mm automatic cannon concealed in its fuselage. “The Pope has gunnery experience,” De Favole noted. “Although that was long ago. But he has been practicing.”
The Popemobile will contain Mag-Lev technology enabling it to act as a hovercraft, flying above the heads of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square and, on special festive occasions, “dispensing Holy Water, souvenir rosaries, and prayer cards” to grateful visitors, De Favole promised.
The technologies employed in the new Popemobile are partially classified, which means that it cannot reside safely in the ordinary garages maintained by the Vatican City-State, De Favole noted. “Industrial espionage is an issue,” he admitted. “We’re particularly worried about the Methodists.” Instead, the new papal conveyance will reside safely underground in the newly excavated “Pope Cave,” whose location in Rome is a closely guarded secret.
The new vehicle will be resistant not only to high explosives and weaponized biological pathogens, but also to “Smilex, a poisonous chemical gas that freezes a Joker-grin on the faces of its victims,” the archbishop said.
Regarding rumors that a “Pope Signal“ would be installed in cities with large Catholic populations, permitting the Holy Father to respond instantly to incidents of terrorism, heresy, or schism, De Favole declined comment, averring: “Just watch the skies.”
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