The Vatican meets the House of Saud

Back in September of last year Pope Benedict really angered the Islamic world, and at a time when Islam had just about had a bellyful of the west. During his speech in Regensburg, Germany, he cited a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who called Islam ''evil and inhuman.'' It was an off-the-cuff remark that led to widespread riots and many Islamic states pulled their ambassadors from the Vatican. Fire bombers attacked Catholic churches in the West Bank and Gaza, an Italian nun was shot dead in Somalia, and the pope’s life was threatened. Naturally, the Vatican was quick to apologise, insisting the remark was misinterpreted.

The photo above, taken Tuesday gone, suggests Ben has been forgiven, for here we have the head of the Roman Catholic Church chumming it with King Abdullah, a man entrusted to protect Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad and the centre of the Islamic world.

Bosom pals, the pope gave the king a 16th-century engraving of the Vatican and a gold medal with his papal seal and in return the king gave the pope a sword, commenting it was ''made of gold and precious stones'', as well as a gold and silver statue of a palm tree and man riding a camel.

So King Abdullah, one of the richest men in the world, gets a gold medal as a gift, as if he hasn’t enough riches, and in return the pope gets a gold and silver statue. Doesn’t Abdullah know there are hundreds of tons of similar stuff buried deep within the Vatican’s catacombs, which never sees the light of day, the spoils of centuries of pillage in holy wars and in the name of Christianity, and fair bit of it, I bet, plundered from Islamic countries?

The king also give Ben a…well…a sword! Yup, a sword, and only a year ago he was pissed off coz Ben said Islam was violent and now he comes bearing bejewelled militaria! Sheesh.!

And other than both agreeing that the Israeli-Palestine conflict was a headache and needed a “just solution” all they really talked about during their half-hour meeting was the need to be nice to Catholics who are forbidden from practicing their faith in Saudi Arabia? What about the beheading of adulteresses and gays in Saudi Arabia, the lack of union rights? Not a mention. All Ben was bothered about was the million or so migrant Catholic working in Saudi Arabia, and whom he patronisingly referred to as “good workers”. Here’s the pope, Christ’s representative on earth - or so it is claimed - the supposed incarnation of peace, love and humility and charged with spreading the same on earth and he has in his presence a man who fronts one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, notorious for its human rights abuses, and he doesn’t vent his papal spleen? There again, which European leader or monarch will cry foul?

The visit was just another stop of in the House of Saud’s PR Tour of Europe – the tee shirts will be on sale soon - and all that European heads of state have been doing is sucking up big time, lending the regime legitimacy, turning a blind eye to the reality of life in Saudi Arabia, which is a virtual prison for millions, and for no other reason than Saudi Arabia has oil – a big enough reason no doubt when, as president or prime minister, your charged with promoting the interests of your capitalist class - but do principles count for nowt? Any other leader of a repressive regime would be shunned – consider the reception President (Mad Bob) Mugabe of Zimbabwe would get if he turned up in St Peter’s Square or on Horse Guards Parade! If Mugabe had oil he’d get the red carpet treatment and Gordon Brown, the pope and every other head of state knows it. What a load of bollocks!

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