When meeting the pope it is
customary to offer him a gift, and Benedict XVI has amassed many tokens
of esteem. Former British prime minister Tony Blair gave him a painting
of the Catholic convert Cardinal Newman and Saudi Arabia’s King
Abdullah presented him with a jeweled scimitar.
When the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met the pontiff he gave him
the Holy Grail, a beer brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire.
It was the highlight of the archbishop’s first trip to Rome to
celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and to cement cordial
relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.
Following their 15-minute chat in the Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le
Mura, believed to be the burial place of St Paul, Sentamu said: “I told
the brewery I was meeting the pope and they made a special brew for
him. I heard he’d been given some Black Sheep ale and liked it. So I
brought that and the Holy Grail.”
The gifts pleased the pope, who is Bavarian by birth and prefers beer
to wine and water. That the tipple was a one-off would have also suited
a pontiff with designer flourishes. During a two-hour service, which
was peppered with incense, chanting, coughing and ringtones, his
ruby-red Prada loafers peeped out from under his ivory robes.
“I was very impressed by the pope,” Sentamu said. “He cares about human
beings. He is such a deep theologian, it drives him to compassion. He
is not a starchy person, but people look at his writings, they are very
precise, and think he is like that … but he is very warm.”
is the beer given which includes the motto “Tempered over burning
witches.” Which prompts the question “What is the speed of
the unladen sparrow and are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not
one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. “