(Reuters) Vatican City – Pope Francis I, widely regarded as “the people’s pope” and as an advocate for the poor, announced in a post-Easter appearance today that he had authorized the selling of Vatican City, including the Basilica of St. Peter and the world-class art collection in the Vatican Museum. “There are only so many times you can preach on the story of the rich, young ruler,” Francis declared, “before you finally get it. Well, I’ve gotten it.”
Papal spokesman Cardinal G. Savonarola said with a broad smile, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this. A long, long time. Finally: a pope who dispenses with worldly vanities! We’re going to celebrate tonight with a big bonfire in front of St. Peter’s.”
In a post-announcement interview, Pope Francis said that the sale was only the beginning. “We’re going to save more money by defrocking the child abusers and all those who sheltered them. Good grief!” he continued with a shake of his head, “we give these people lifetime sinecures? I don’t think so. As of this weekend, they’re off the payroll and out of their church housing. And not one more penny of the faithful’s tithes will go to their legal bills.”
Some conservative critics of the Pope, however, warned that some of the announced measures would cripple a church already losing ground in Latin America, North America, and Europe. “Now the Holy Father has taken away our main source of income?” protested J. Tetzel, Archbishop of Saxony. “How are we to survive without bingo?”
Pope Francis, when asked about how local congregations could possibly pay their bills without holding regular evenings of gambling on the premises, replied with a steely look and said, “We managed to survive cutting back on rampant indulgence- and office-selling a few hundred years ago. I think we’ll manage somehow without encouraging people to spend evenings on a game of chance hoping to make a few miserable dollars.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already submitted a proposal to buy and preserve the greatest of the buildings and art collection as a perpetually endowed UNESCO World Heritage Site. One member of the Curia, who preferred not to be named, was quoted as saying, “Wow. If they were faithful Catholics, they could avoid purgatory entirely with a gift like that. What a waste of good supererogation.”
Popular faith-healer and evangelist Benny Hinn was rebuffed in his offer, however, to purchase the elaborate white vestments stored in the Vatican’s vast collection of clothing and textiles. “It is our feeling,” said Cardinal Savonarola, “that Mr. Hinn ought to reconsider whether white is really his colour and whether, in fact, he might do better wearing penitential brown, like St. Francis himself.”
At the end of the interview, Pope Francis was asked what prompted him to make such a radical decision so early in his papacy. “Well,” he said with a chuckle, “once I got lost in the papal apartments for the third time, the absurdity of it all really came home to me. I mean, how much space does a single person need?”
When a reporter followed up by asking how far he would be downsizing, the pope who has confounded all expectations replied, “A lot—but still not too much. As I say, I don’t need a lot of room, but if the next pope is mar—” and then he interrupted himself with a small wave of his hand.
“One step at a time,” he said quietly, bowed cordially, and left the room.