Updated at 2:51 pm EST
WASHINGTON — In a move that took some of his campaign staff by surprise, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain announced last night that he would be flying to Vatican City Tuesday to meet with Pope Benedict XVI.
Vatican spokesman Salvatore Tessio told the Italian newspaper L’Investiaggio that he had been informed Sen. McCain would ask for the endorsement of the Pope during the meeting, adding, “This is highly unorthodox and unprecedented, but I have no official word as yet on whether the Holy Father will grant Mr. McCain’s request.”
Talking to reporters on his campaign bus, Sen. McCain said, “I think it’s important to Americans of the Catholic faith to know that I am on their side, that I am the president they need in a time of war and that we share the same moral viewpoint and love for our Christian God and sweet Jesus above all.”
“It’s pretty obvious that Sen. McCain is trying to shore up Catholic voters,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, reacting to the news yesterday. “The endorsement from Pastor John Hagee, an avowed anti-Catholic, has put the McCain campaign in a tailspin and they’re trying to recoup their losses.”
Bill Donohue, president of Catholics Rising in Anger and Piety, told Newsday, “This cheap pandering won’t work with us. The Pope will never endorse McCain and it’s an affront to the sanctity of Catholicism that he even tries to use our religion to further his political ambitions. I hope the Pope kicks him straight out the door.”
Sen. McCain is scheduled to hold a press conference this evening following the meeting.
Of course, this news item is an April Fool’s Day prank.