Rebecca Tyrrel: 'If James Murdoch asked the Pope to pray for his career, it appears not to have worked'

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Who knew that, during the Holy Father's 2010 visit to Britain, James Murdoch made a £100,000 donation towards funding the trip, and wasgranted a private audience with the Pope. See this as either a weirdcoincidence or even a Papal miracle, but please do not regard it as anything so vulgar as buying access. That is not, has never been, and never will be the Murdoch family's way.

No record of what Benedict XVI andRupert's eldest boy discussed seems toexist, which is sad (someone should have bugged at least one of them). All we know is that, shortly after handing over thepaltry amount – roughly what the Newsof the World paid the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire annually, but still leaving enough change after doling out for the canapés (do they have canapés at papalmeet and greets?) for some duty free shopping on the way back to Rome – James attended the mass celebrated by his holiness in Westminster Cathedral. He then joined the Pope for a private natter in Archbishop's House.

If he asked the Pope to pray for his career, it appears not to have worked tremendously well. In the two years since this meeting of minds, he has lost his reputation, his dignity, his place on various boards and any chance to succeed Rupert as global boss of News Corporation.

Speaking of the unholy father, Rupert's own relationship with the Roman Catholic church seems to have done him little good either, despite him being almost a hundredfold more generous than his son.

In 1998, yet another pontifical miracle saw Rupert, a convert to the faith, made a Knight Commander of St Gregory not long after donating $10m towards the building of Los Angeles Cathedral, an especially hideous lump of concrete.

This papal knighthood is the highest honour a Pope can bestow upon a lay person (other recipients include Sirs Jimmy Savile and Matt Busby), and it is given only to those of "unblemished character".

Pope John Paul II was known as a twinkly-eyed humourist, but Benedict XVI, who served briefly in the Hitler Youth as a teenager in his native Germany, was not believed to be an ironist in his predecessor's class.

Taking a hundred grand for a quick chat with James Murdoch, who didn't seem a particularly gifted conversationalist at the Leveson enquiry last week, suggests that he may have a more mischievous wit than the stern Teutonic countenance suggests.

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