To some cyber-prankster, it was a match made in heaven: A fake story on the Internet announced that Microsoft, the world's largest maker of personal computer software, was to acquire the Roman Catholic church.

The unknown prankster used a fake dispatch from The Associated Press, the world's largest news-gathering organization, and circulated it on the Internet global network of computers."If the deal goes through," the story intoned under a Vatican City dateline, "it will be the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion."

Under the terms of the supposed deal, Microsoft would get exclusive electronic rights to the Bible, Pope John Paul II would become the senior vice president of the combined company's new Religious Software Division, and two Microsoft senior vice presidents would be invested in the College of Cardinals.

Microsoft, the world's largest maker of personal computer software, disavowed the hoax Friday after receiving calls from people who thought it might be true.