So keen was Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, for Pope Benedict XVI to appear on Radio 4's Thought for the Day that he made a personal approach to the Vatican.
Sadly, Mandrake hears that the efforts of the Jesuit-educated Roman Catholic have come to naught.
"The Pope has not taken up the corporation's offer," announces The Tablet, whose editor, Catherine Pepinster, is a regular contributor to the three-minute religious slot on the Today programme.
Thompson had hoped to time the broadcast to coincide with the Pontiff's visit in September.
Mark Damazer, the Radio 4 controller, left the negotiations to his boss. He said: "I think Mark Thompson is better qualified than me on two grounds: being director-general, and his religion."
The slot is pre-recorded, meaning that the Pope would not have had to make an early morning visit to the Today studios. It is open to speakers of all faiths. The Archbishop of Canterbury delivers a message at least once a year. READ MORE