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Elect Me Pope! 

It'll be great for Charlotte!

It came to me in a dream. While the passing of Pope John Paul II is a sad event, my dream showed me the promising future this misfortune can bring to our bustling boomtown. The coming weeks will be busy with the ritualistic selection of a new Pontiff. Charlotte, Can-Do City USA, needs to make the most of this situation. Forget about bringing the NASCAR Hall of Fame here. Forget about the NBA (as many of you apparently already have). Forget about courting Major League Baseball. It's time to think World Class. We need to lure the Vatican to Charlotte.

Before Karol Josef Wojtyla was elected Pope in 1978, no one thought it possible for a non-Italian to ascend to the throne of Saint Peter. It may seem like a similar long shot for a non-Catholic to be selected Pope this time around, but I'm suggesting that it is, instead, a grand opportunity just waiting to happen. After all, no one thought Hugh McColl could make Charlotte the center of national banking by acquiring the Worst Little Bank in Texas in 1988. But he did. Because he had a plan.

That is why, for the good of Charlotte, I'm throwing my miter into the ring for selection as the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Why me? Well, for one thing, I'm available and I thought of it first. For another, I'm a true Vatican outsider who can bring a fresh insight to these troubled times. I have no ties to the existing Church scandals; go ahead, check my computer. All the Internet porn on my PC is strictly hetero with a distinct prejudice for naturally endowed redheads. Righteous indeed. Finally, I'm the choice because I have a plan.

We'll need to be careful, but if I can get the vast and powerful religious community centered here in the rhinestone buckle of the Bible Belt behind my candidacy, I can take Charlotte's self-obsessed religious fanaticism to the next level. Here's how.

First, make me Pope. When I get my hat, ring, and the title to the Popemobile, I also get the key to the deal — Papal infallibility. When I'm officially Pope, I call the shots. And my first order of business, following the example McColl set so many years ago, will be to relocate the headquarters of the Catholic Church to, that's right, Charlotte USA.

It's time to think World Class. We need to lure the Vatican to Charlotte.

True, there might be some initial dissent, but once I put my staff down, the deal is done. Who's going to argue with me? I'll be the friggin' Pope! Besides, the College of Cardinals will love Charlotte; after all, they're used to working as a secret group removed from the scrutiny of the people they serve. It'll feel just like home. And we already have a Square just waiting for a marquee tenant. Once the issue of naming rights is resolved (I'm thinking we change the name "St. Peter's Square" to "St. Joseph's Children's Aspirin Square"), we'll be set.

When the power and money of the Catholic Church is moved here, we'll do what Charlotte does best. We'll leverage that power and money by acquiring some of the smaller religious denominations, one at a time. In rapid succession Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Lutherans (Evangelical, then Missouri Synod), one and all will come into the fold. By the time we acquire the Baptists, we'll be in a position to perform a "merger of equals" with the Jews; of course, we'll make them just as "equal" as the former heads of Bank of America and Wachovia were. Hallelujah!

Sure, some of the faithful might be forced out in order to make the new church more lean and responsive. And maybe some Works-Righteousness will need to be outsourced to subsidiary Hindus in India. But think of the tithes when we make religion work like it never has before! And think of the overall benefit to the world. Those pesky Muslims will have no choice but to become more competitive and market friendly or they'll be run out of business. Or else they'll have to merge into the fold. World domination, er ... peace, at last!

When I'm your Pope and Vatican City relocates to the Queen City, the church will take on a distinctly Charlotte feel. The really tall hat will be replaced with a baseball cap representing the current NASCAR points leader. The Popemobile will be upgraded with a 340-cubic-inch custom V-8 and spoiler. And no more smelly incense burning during High Mass. Instead, prayers will be lifted to heaven on the sweet smoke of open pit barbecue. Holy Communion will experience a new Southern flavor when we replace the wafer eating and wine drinking with the Passing Of The Tin for a dip of snuff. Forgiveness of sin will be replaced with a blessing of their hearts. And we'll cast out Blue Devils and Demon Deacons alike, except when they play non-ACC teams.

Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of thinking that there is no way the Catholic Church will go along with this. A month ago, how plausible was the concept "Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank President"? The way I see it, you can either help me become Pope Billy Bob I, or you can get ready for Pope Karl Rove. Heaven help us, indeed.

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