Written by Fergus McCarthy
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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

image for Pope Benedict to bless Stephen Ireland's fish tank on Papal visit

Pope Benedict XVI may be granted the opportunity to undertake an official visit to Stephen Ireland as early as 2012 according to sources in Rome.

The Vatican has made no announcement about a trip to Stephen Ireland, but Ireland officials have indicated that they would look favourably on a papal visit subject to a proviso of a private blessing of Ireland's 6000 litre salt water, £100,000 aquarium.

A spokesman for the on loan Newcastle United midfielder confirmed that they have received formal applications from the Italian government, Cardinal Sean Brady, Giovanni Trapattoni and the Vatican hierarchy.

If Ireland's representatives give the go ahead the Pope is expected to be the joint celebrant alongside the Irish midfield maestro at an open air Mass in Dublin's Croke Park in June 2012, but that date may be subject to change if Ireland has a change of heart and decides to lead his country to glory at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Cardinal Brady said he felt "honoured, excited and humbled" that Ireland had chosen the Pope to bless his fish tank given the many requests that Stephen had already received from religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Billy Graham and Sinead O'Connor to name but a few.

Preparations are reportedly underway to present Stephen with a pair of breeding Angel fish that have been hand reared in the Pontiffs private chambers and fed exclusively on a diet of Eucharistic hosts, blessed by his holiness at Bethsaida, the site at which Jesus miraculously fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish

Currently, as part of his trip, it is believed that Pope Benedict XVI will also make a visit to Northern Ireland, take part in a celebrity hurling match and hopefully fulfil a lifelong ambition by appearing on Friday nights Late Late Show on RTE Television.

The visit would normally be expected to face a barrage of protests and criticism in the wake of Irish Catholic Church scandals in recent years, but the close affinity, respect, admiration and affection that Pope Benedict holds for Ireland is likely to lead to a mainly peaceful visit.

Stephen Ireland's Range Rover will be used as the official Pope mobile for the trip and Pope Benedict is said to particularly excited at going for big long rides with Stephen in it.

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