Old fears about the influence of American corporations in global affairs resurfaced Tuesday with the sensational announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is to be sponsored by Coca Cola.
The controversial five-year, multi-million dollar deal - signed at St. Peter�s late Monday - marks the first time in history that a major religious figure has been sponsored by a beverage company.
In a press conference this morning, Coca Cola CEO Neville Isdell said, �This is an historic moment for the corporation � a great drink and a great man - we are thrilled and delighted to have the Coca Cola brand associated with the Pope.�
It is not yet known how the sponsorship will operate day to day. However, television, print and even a poster campaign featuring the Pope �smiling and enjoying a refreshing can� are said to be �in the cards.� Suggestions that the Pope will now give his Sunday morning St Peter�s Square mass in a Coca Cola cap are said to be �on the table, but unlikely.�
Coca Cola refused to comment on whether the deal will give them naming rights. However, a leaked report from Vatican City suggests that Ratzinger�s official title could well become �Pope Coke I� before the end of the year.
The Vatican was quick to defend the deal, describing it as an �unprecedented yet positive development for Christendom.� They also urged Catholics worldwide to keep the news within perspective, �The blending of the Catholic and Coca Cola brands will be beneficial for both parties. The deal will bring a little fizz into the image of our new and beloved Pontiff, whilst opening up the commercial potential of the global Catholic brand.�
Rumors that the Catholic Church will demand the use of coke instead of communion wine in its churches were said to be �unfounded and absurd� - although it might be used as an �alternative� for recovering alcoholics and children. It was also �not beyond the realm of possibility� that Coca Cola would become the official drink of Catholic Sunday schools � �the kids do love it."
The deal is a major coup for Coca Cola, rising the corporation�s share price sharply. They certainly had to fight off considerable competition to secure the deal. Privately, Pepsi was said to be �devastated� that they were beaten to the Pope�s signature. However, publicly they responded to the announcement in typically bullish fashion:
�Why any soft drink empire would want to associate their product with an aging, boring, �filler� Pope is staggering. Pope Benedict XVI will soon be succeeded by a younger, more radical, far cooler Pope. We have already begun our campaign to ensure that he is known as Pope �C� Cola and marketed as �the choice of a new generation.��
Many of the World�s political leaders were horrified by the news. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose wife Cherie is a practising Catholic, described the deal as �a serious threat to the sanctity of established religion� and called for an emergency summit of the G8. President Bush on the other hand was �encouraged� by the deal. Speaking from his Texas ranch he said: �It�s good for Coca Cola, it�s good for America and it�s good for me.�
With the world in shock and opinion seemingly divided, all eyes are certain to be fixed on Rome.