THE Pope has taken special delivery of a new "papal tractor" produced by a team of workers at the New Holland tractor plant in Basildon.

The tailor-made T7050 model has been painted all white with a hint of gold - instead of New Holland's traditional blue colour - to match the classic papal colours. It even bears the Holy Father's coat of arms.

The machinery will be used to pull the Pope's huge platform into position at his weekly Vatican City Wednesday public audiences in St Peter's Square, where tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims and tourists gather for mass.

Silvia Ortiz, public relations manager for New Holland Europe, was one of the company representatives who travelled to Rome to meet the Pope and hand over keys to the special gift, which took two days to make.

She said: "He was a lovely man and was very courteous and grateful to receive the tractor.

"He seemed interested in hearing how and where it was made."

Workers at the Basildon plant, in Cranes Farm Road, didn't believe it at first when they were told they would be making a tractor for the Pope.

Silvia laughed: "I think they put extra special effort in. They all wanted their photo taken standing next to the finished tractor."

Benedict XVI, the Vatican's 265th Pope, kindly agreed to lend the tractor back to New Holland so that it could be displayed in a special machinery exhibition in Hanover, Germany.

Silvia added: "Because of the special interest in this tractor, we wanted to show it off, but it will soon be making its way back to the Vatican."