Cherie has one. Ann Widdecombe has one. Stephen Fry has one, as does Julian Clary. Madonna's was returned by the postal service, unopened. "I sent some as gifts to people who were Catholic, or who I thought might see the sly humour in it, or both," says Andrew Humphrey, supplier of Calendario Romano. And if you're looking for a last-minute Christmas present, this calendar of handsome Italian priests and their churches may be just the thing.
The black-and-white photos on glossy paper with stylish numbering along the bottom appeal particularly to ladies of a certain age and to gay men. Though I am neither of those, my favourite is Father March, a priest in white robes surrounded by other handsome members of his flock.
Humphrey came across the calendar when he saw a small item about it in a newspaper one day. He tracked down the photographer and creator of the calendar, Piero Pazzi, and became its sole UK supplier. However, most of his buyers are American, and he also sells to people in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Holland and Singapore. A TV producer in Germany bought them as wrap gifts for the crew on a series about priests. The calendar hangs in the offices of BBC Religion and Ethics, and of the Westminster Abbey choral foundation. For every copy sold, Humphrey donates a pound to the Food Chain, a London-based charity that delivers individually tailored meals and groceries to housebound HIV sufferers who cannot provide or prepare meals for themselves.
But is it right to select men of God for their looks? "I know these priests are handsome," responds Pazzi, "but what's wrong with that? If I was doing a cat calendar, I couldn't show old moggies with no teeth." But those who doubt they really are priests are right in at least one case. Father January is the actor Yuri Antonosante, and he went to the photo shoot as a professional model. Now, he says, when he goes on a casting call, he is asked: "Father, what are you doing here?"