Eastern Iowa stores prepare for Pope Francis memorabilia

Churches, collectors want 'official' items

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Religious stores in Eastern Iowa that carry Catholic merchandise are preparing for a surge of interest in Pope Francis commemorative spoons, mugs, portraits, rosaries and other memorabilia.

"We have ordered portraits of Pope Francis, but they are not here yet because it will take a little time," said Inge Ossoinig, chief executive officer of the Mustard Seed, 532 N. Dodge St. in Iowa City. "Usually the portrait from the Vatican is the best picture, and we have ordered them."

Mark Gould, owner of Religious Supply Center in Davenport, said many retailers learned their lesson eight years ago when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI.

"There were a lot of unofficial portraits of Pope Benedict that were of very poor quality," Gould said. "We've been in contact with other retailers and suppliers and we've all agreed that we want the official Vatican portrait of Francis.

"Every Catholic school and church is required to display a portrait of the pope. We have already received inquiries about when we can expect to have them available."

Gould said many churches have prepared for the election of a new pontiff by purchasing papal bunting that will be hung around the front doors of churches.

"The yellow-and-white bunting, which are the colors of the Holy See, is displayed to welcome a new pope," Gould said. The bunting, which is 100 percent polyester and weatherproof, ranges in price from $55 for 6-foot to 7-foot doors to $156.50 for 12-foot to 15-foot doors.

Papal memorabilia honoring Pope Francis was posted on eBay within hours after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was announced as the new pontiff. Button pin badges with Francis's image are selling for about $1.40, plus postage, and commemorative mugs can be ordered for $6 plus postage.

Ossoinig of the Mustard Seed said Pope Benedict XVI memorabilia is still very popular.

"People love to read his books," she said. "They are really wonderful. We have sold a lot of them because they're really very popular."

If you're collector of papal memorabilia and price is not an obstacle, you might consider bidding to own Benedict's former 1999 Volkswagen Golf, which is presently being auctioned on eBay for charity. The seller is online casino GoldenPalace.com, which is donating 100 percent of the final sale price to Habitat for Humanity Great Britain.

The minimum bid is about $5,900.

As for vehicles formerly used by Pope Francis when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, you're out of luck.

Known for his lack of pomp and circumstance, the future pope lived in a simple apartment instead of the archbishop's palace and opted to take the bus rather than use a limousine that was offered to him.

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