Oscar Wilde, long claimed by the gay community as the ultimate bitchy queen, has been embraced by one of Pope Benedict’s closest advisers.

The Vatican’s head of protocol, Fr Leonardo Sapienza, has published a book of witty remarks for Christians, perhaps aware that the devout tend not to be the most spontaneously amusing of people.

Irish-born playwright Wilde is featured heavily in Provocations: Aphorisms for an Anti-conformist Christianity.

The book is designed to “stimulate a reawakening in certain Catholic circles,” Fr Sapienza told Italian paper La Repubblica.

“Our role [as Christians] is to be a thorn in the flesh, to move people’s consciences and to tackle what today is the number one enemy of religion – indifference.”

While no-one would argue that the present Pontiff has indeed been a thorn in the flesh of liberal-minded Christians across the world, the inclusion of Wilde in a Catholic-endorsed book has puzzled many Vatican watchers.

Included in the inspirational book are some of Wilde’s best known sayings.

Although his remarks were designed to appear spontaneous, Wilde in fact spend many hours honing his bon mots, in much the same way that today’s homosexuals spend time at the gym perfecting a ‘natural’ physique.

While Wilde has been claimed as a gay icon, the famous playwright would never have recognised himself as such, being married with children.

He did, however, coin the phrase, “the love that dare not speak its name” in his meditation on desire and punishment, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Father Sapienza claims that Wilde will be remembered not for his fall from grace, convicted and imprisoned for gross indecency in 1895 and sentenced to two years hard labour, but rather for his powerful body of work.

Wilde himself flirted with Catholicism during his lifetime, but once said, “To go over to Rome would be to sacrifice and give up my two great Gods: money and ambition.”

In the end Wilde opted for that most convenient way to hedge one’s bets – a deathbed conversion.

Some Oscar quotes:

A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.

A true friend stabs you in the front

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilised.