It’s fun as an undercover Catholic

The Jewish Chronicle Online, 28/09/2010

I had a great day out when I went to see the Pontiff

On Yom Kippur, while I was coming out of the synagogue, across the street I saw two young girls holding up a banner saying: “We love the Pope more than beans on toast”.

Being a life-long lover of beans on toast, naturally I was curious. “Really!?” I asked.

“We’re off to see the Pope in Hyde Park,” they said. “Want to come?” Immediately I decided to go for the best double whammy in town, the Chief Rabbi and the Pope.

“Can you get me in?” I asked Father Paul, a young Irishman from West Sussex.

“How much is a ticket?”

“Oh don’t you worry about that,” he said.

“Father, I’ve got to tell you something first, you see, I’m not exactly on the Catholic side of the world,” I said.

“Really? Is that so?” he said.

“It is so. I’m Jewish.”

“Really?” he said, “is that so?”

“It is so indeed,” I said.

“I’ve just come out the synagogue, it’s Yom Kippur you know.”

By this time I was talking in an Irish brogue. I always find myself automatically mimicking other people’s accents. I can’t even go to my local curry house because of political correctness.

“Where’s the park?” he asked.

“Follow me, Father,” I said, picking up a banner with ‘Father Paul’ on it and, followed by 25 Catholics from Crawley, I headed up Park Lane.

En route I pointed out some of our own religious monuments.

“That’s the Dorchester.” I said. “It’s like a cathedral for barmitzvahs. It’s like your confirmation, only with life-size statues of the barmitzvah boy in chop liver.”

The Father handed me a pink wrist band and a form saying ‘I was a West Sussex pilgrim’. “So converting isn’t that difficult.” I said: “Father, think of this as your contribution to interfaith relations.”

Security was non-existent: They should definitely consider hiring the CST; one wave of my pink wristband and I was in. They must have relaxed after the arrest of the Westminster Six, the Algerian road sweepers. What did they think they were going to do ? “Up brooms and at him! Mass your carts chaps and charge!”?

Inside, as a precautionary measure I bought the £10 programme, the one with the largest picture of the Pope on the cover. In case someone suspected I wasn’t really a Catholic, I’d flash it at them.

The sun shone as a group of dancing nuns twirled by.

As the only person in a suit and tie, and not wanting to stand out, I mingled with a group from Nigeria.

After two hours, with still no sign of the main act, I was getting impatient. (I make my the toast in the microwave). “Hurry up!” I shout. “I don’t want to appear disrespectful Father, but I’ll watch him later on TV,” I said.

“I’ve got to be getting back to the synagogue.”

At the press and disabled exit a guard barred my path.

“Once you’re in, you’re in. You can’t get out again,” he said. “What! I’m going to have to be a Catholic for ever!?” I asked.

“I’m the Jewish Chronicle’s disabled interfaith correspondent,” I said.

I limped through. As I got to Hyde Park corner, the popemobile arrived.

He was lucky, another 30 seconds and he’d have missed me. The Pope waved at me.

I waved back. By the time I’d walked back to the shul, the door was shut and the rabbi had gone home. Good yontif to the pontif!.