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Papal crackdown on bare-kneed tourists sparks hypocrisy claims

Rubbish - priests always cover their knees

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The Vatican's stripey knickerbocker-clad Swiss Guards have launched a crack down on scantily-clad tourists in and around the Holy See.

Reports say that a long-standing modest dress decree has been extended from St Peter's basicilica - the big church - to the whole of the Vatican mini-state.

The Pope's halberd-waving steel-hatted private army has apparently been forcing quivering tourists into corners to berate them for having uncovered shoulders or knees. While some have been directed to nearby traders specialising in more modest apparel, others have been refused entry to Vatican City altogether, The Telegraph reports.

According to Italy's ANSA news service, the guard's standard line is "This is the Vatican City and for reasons of respect, you are not allowed in with uncovered shoulders or wearing shorts."

The crackdown has angered some visitors, who said it was hypocritical for an organisation beset by child abuse allegations to suddenly get all hot and bothered about ladies' shoulders and men's hairy knees. Still, when it comes to driving Satan out of the Vatican you've got to start somewhere, so why not with spaghetti strap tops and Bermuda shorts?

It should be noted that the guards wear a 16th century outfit including a natty doublet and voluminous pantaloons, and while the pantaloons stop above the knee, the offending joints are covered by coordinated stockings. Their wardrobe also includes a knee-length doublet.

The pope himself generally wears a floor length cassock, which this week he has apparently been teaming with a baseball cap in pontifical white. ®

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