THE Pope has commissioned a $1bn super-telescope as the Vatican steps up its hunt for Jesus.
The telescope, to be positioned in orbit 200 miles above the earth, will scan the heavens in a bid to force the Son of God from his hiding place.
Vatican astronomer Monsignor Umberto Facci said: "The exact whereabouts of Jesus remains one of the final mysteries of science.
"Over the years he has been spotted in Orion, Ursa Major and the Horsehead Nebula, as well as numerous chapatis and tortillas.
"With this gigantic viewing machine we can chase him all over the heavens until he gets tired and gives up."
The Vatican has rejected claims of hypocrisy despite its long history of burning astronomers to death for suggesting the Earth may not be a giant fried egg, cooked by God.
Monsignor Facci added: "This is a common misunderstanding about the Church's attitude to astronomy. Let me be clear – Galileo was persecuted because he spoke with a lisp."
The telescope can also be turned towards the Earth so that Vatican scholars can spot miracles as they happen.
A spokesman said: "This will allow us to have a shrine, a giftshop and a dozen swivel-eyed beggars in place before the Muslims have even got their coats on."