Does the Pope need PR? Probably not. The Catholic Church is probably the most PR-savvy organisation in the world – better than Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Richard Branson put together.

They invented the word propaganda for Christ’s sake (can I say that?) – the original propagandists were missionaries sent out to spread the word – for the best description of this see Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

So whoever advised Pope Benedict when in his speech last week must have been on something. He “inadvertently insulted" Islam in the course of his discourse when he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman” but made it clear that it wasn’t his own opinion.

In response to being labelled evil and inhuman by a dead Byzantine emperor, a group of Muslims did what anyone would do in that situation: they firebombed two churches in the West Bank and stabbed a nun to death in Somalia.

If we are all about engaging in a global conversation, the Pope’s comments seem plain stupid – like asking the Rabbi whether he prefers lobster or a ham sandwich - but the instant response from you or me might be to say I am offended by that remark. The response from the fanatics is to say: “I am offended so I will kill you!”

I also love the fact that the Vatican’s official position is that Muslims should be treated with “esteem.” According to my dictionary, esteem “high regard,” which is nice! But it can also mean “the regard in which one is held” which is a broad concept encompassing everything from “decent chap” to “towel head.”

The Pontiff is in a tricky situation. He can either say that he believes Muslims picked the wrong religion, thereby triggering massive violence. Or he can be a liar with a funny hat and a Bavarian accent. He, or his advisers, thought he found a clever middle ground that involves attributing any bad thoughts about Islam to a dead guy and employing words that sound like compliments. So far it isn’t working.

The point with PR is to consider the implications of what you say. When you throw a pebble in the pond and you can never control the resulting ripples - or at least I can't.

Interestingly the Guardian described him as “a little man with little sympathy for other faiths”.

For the record my mother is Protestant, my dad is Catholic – I’m a Humanist. No, a humanist nor a humourist.

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