VATICAN CITY — We’ve all received gifts we can’t use or frankly just don’t like. They get stuffed away in a back closet or sold. Some are eventually re-gifted to unsuspecting relatives or friends. But if you are the pope, getting rid of unwanted gifts is not as easy as that, what with the Spartan living conditions and protocol and all. So Pope Francis has found a way to turn the generosity of others into good luck for a few.
Starting this week, the Vatican is raffling off tickets for a chance to win unwanted papal gifts that Francis doesn’t need. Raffle tickets cost €10 and can be purchased at a select few spots including the Vatican post office and at the Vatican’s tourist and pilgrimage bureau in St. Peter’s Square. The winners will be drawn on January 8, which makes the raffle tickets the perfect Christmas gift.
The prizes are impressive and give a window into just what sort of presents people give the pope. The grand prize is a pristine white Fiat Panda 4X4 – with full options. The second, third, and four prizes are bicycles—baby blue, orange and gray respectively; and the fifth prize is a tandem bicycle built for two – which begs the question of just who the giver of that gift thought the pontiff might be cycling around St. Peter’s Square with.
According to Rome’s Messaggero newspaper, which broke the story on Tuesday, the potential pontifical consolation prizes include an Illy brand capsule coffee maker, a HD digital camera, a silver picture frame, a Homero Ortega Panama hat, and a vast array of belts and comfortable shoes in the style the pope likes to wear. There are wallets, briefcases, and document holders, too. A Vatican spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the monogrammed items would not be included in the raffle at this time, though he didn’t rule out that further raffles would be held if this one proves financially lucrative. There are even electronics like iPhone and iPod docking stations and an assortment of pricey pens intended for the pontiff.
The money raised in the holy raffle will go to the Pope’s main charity for the poor. The project is being overseen by Father Corrado Krajewski, a Polish priest who has been Francis’s papal almoner since his election. Don Corrado, as he is known on the streets of Rome where he frequently distributes gifts of money, food, and clothing to the poor for Francis. Last week, Krajewski initaited a project to install showers for the homeless in the restrooms in St. Peter’s Square after meeting a man in Rome he had hoped to buy dinner for, who said he really wanted a hot shower instead. Rome charities estimate that there are around 8,000 homeless people in Rome.
Father Corrado also travels to poor areas around Rome to visit people in need to distribute money to pay utility bills, and past-due rents along with distributing rosaries and sacred pictures of saints, according to Messaggero, which says when Francis assigned him he told Krajewski.
“You will not be a desk bishop desk. You'll have to be an extension of my me to bring a caress to the dispossessed and the last of the city,” Francis reportedly told his good will angel. “I can not get out of the Vatican but you will.”
The papal raffle is expected to raise hundreds of thousands of euro and should easily clean the papal closets of hundreds of unneeded and unwanted gifts.