This morning I was reading the news, just like I like to do everyday, and came across a piece about the Catholic Church. As my readers already know, I’m not one for religion but I have a strange fascination with the Catholics both in regards to the history but also generally. The piece I read today was unusual in that it fired my imagination and reminded me of events in history that saw the birth of the Reformation. The brief story I came across announced that the Pope is to raffle gifts given to him, presumably by the faithful, for the poor. In of itself this is quite considerate and noble, though I couldn’t help but be struck by the surrealism of it all. Instantly I had visions of the benevolent and elderly figure of Pope Francis dipping his hand in a cardinal’s hat and pulling out a ticket with the winner’s name and reading it out inside St. Peter’s Basilica. The winner, a fifty something Catholic lady is surprised by the sound of her own name leaving the Pontiff’s lips and rushes to the pulpit shaking her ticket in the air, practically in hysterics. “What did I win, oh holy Father?” Cries the overawed member of his flock as Pope Francis pulls a hand knit angora wool sweater (made just for him) in papal white out of his Santa sack, sprinkles it with holy water and hands it to the happy believer who kisses his ring in exaltation before swiftly returning to her seat so that the next gift can be raffled.
I was more tickled by the potential idea of the Pope auctioning off his gifts to the highest bidder, “And here we have a brand new coffee holder for your sofa ladies and gents. Who’ll give me €20 for it? Thank you very much Sir! It’s hand sewn, monogrammed FP and sports these lovely gold tassels too! Who will give me €25?” He nods to the interested parties, “€30, €35? Very good Madam! Anyone else? Alrighty then. Sold to the gentleman with the handlebar mustache! God bless you for your charity Sir!”
At the end, when all the gifts have been raffled off (though I much prefer my own auction method) the Pope raises his hands and says, “Do not fear folks, there will also be some consolation prizes in the form of signed Papal autographs for another 30 of you today. Please hang onto your tickets until the end of the service. Those of you that were unsuccessful may still purchase some from the official vendors doing the rounds, please remain seated until they get to you. May I remind you that all those that have purchased a ticket today will get free access to heaven, no questions asked, should you perish within the next 30 days. All for the prize of just one raffle ticket!”
Alright, so there might be an element of exaggeration in my dramatization above, after all the Pope will be giving away much more valuable things such as a Fiat Punto, several watches, bikes and an espresso maker but I can’t help but see it as another desperate notch in the Vatican PR machine’s belt, in light of the constant abuse scandals that come to light. In fact I am convinced that his entire election was a massive publicity campaign to make people see the Church in a new light. Let’s ignore the fact that only last summer Santa Maria Maggiore was being used as a homeless shelter while not being visited by tourists. What better way to utilize a centuries old Church than to house the poor and needy, despite the fact that it probably doesn’t even have room or appropriate sanitation facilities for 350 families? At least they tolerate them until by 5 a.m when mass starts.
In 2012 the Vatican made close to €90 million. That was enough money to give rise to an embezzlement scandal, so are we to believe they don’t have enough money to build a homeless shelter and need to resort to raffling coffee makers? The phrase “Too little, too late” pops to mind as well as a sense of having my intelligence underestimated. Despite all their best intentions, the Catholic Church has once again birthed a campaign that’s way off the mark of what their followers need, and more sadly, what their ample facilities can provide.