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 CNS Story:

PAPAL SOUVENIRS Mar-20-2013 (430 words) With photos. xxxi

Vendors offer increasing numbers of items with papal image

By Lauren Colegrove
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- New papal merchandise made its debut soon after the words "Habemus papam" rang through St. Peter's Square March 13.

The next morning, photos of the smiling Pope Francis -- hastily printed and attached to simple rosaries -- could be found near the Vatican, and the papal items grew more creative in the week leading up to the pope's inauguration.

Vendors lining the street in front of St. Peter's Square offer items ranging from pencils to candles with the pope's image on them, and customers could find magnets of "Papa Francesco" nestled between pictures of retired Pope Benedict XVI and "I love Roma" bracelets. The smell of ink from newly printed postcards with quotes from Pope Francis' first speech permeated the stores, and pilgrims sorted through bins of religious medals with images of the pope's face, looking for the perfect reminder of this historic time in Rome.

During the conclave, some online religious stores offered customers the option of pre-ordering images of the new pope, either as a formal portrait or "as he arrives on the balcony at St. Peter's Basilica and greets the crowds below, most likely with arms raised in greeting and rejoicing." Buttons, key chains and desk plaques were recommended to those who wanted to display the new pope in their homes and offices.

Phone case covers, pillows and bumper stickers with pictures of the pope also are making their way into online stores.

Items relevant to the pope, especially those who go on to become saints, have always been highly sought after. In the Middle Ages, the practice of simony, which included the selling of papal relics, reached an all-time high, to the point that it was condemned as heresy. According to church law, relics should never be sold, but an offering can be made to cover processing.

In 2006, the website of the Diocese of Rome offered small pieces of Blessed John Paul II's cassock on a holy card as part of the campaign to beatify him, asking for a contribution to help cover costs of shipping and handling but not requiring it.

Recently, novelties related to the pope have taken a secular turn. For $26.95, people interested in papal scents can buy the "Pope's Cologne," a cologne "made from the private formula of Pope Pius IX" which is said to smell like citrus and violets. A brewery in Berlin created "Papst Bier," (Pope's beer) to commemorate retired Pope Benedict XVI's 2011 visit to Germany, and bakeries have already started creating cookies with Pope Francis' images printed in food-coloring.


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