Pope John-Paul II in Saint Martin’s Chapel at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia 1979 (photo by author)

As Benedict’s secretary packs up the papal luggage for the United States tour, the astute merchandisers are getting their wares ready for the Pope’s profitable visit. Visitors to the Washington, D.C. and the New York events can anticipate vendors with papal images festooned on all types of things, from flags, to coffee mugs and tee shirts. One particular chain, Build a Bear is part of the marketing campaign and is officially designated an approved merchandise vendor by the Holy See. It seems that the “Bennie” bear is making its debut in the Build-a-Bear stores around the Washington, D.C. area. This type of merchandise is a tasteful and nice way to remember the papal visit. Profits from the sales will most likely be donated to charitable causes as indicated by the Holy See. Of course, this author has already ordered a Build-a-Bear shirt with the logo of the journey for his daughters Teddy Bear.

Watching the stories develop, it does not appear there are any outlandish examples of merchandise to mark the upcoming Petrine visit. Let’s hope the situation stays that way, and all of the vendors continue to exhibit a strong sense of appropriate decorum. It is noted however that in the Archdiocese of New York, there is a contest for the best Papal Skate Board design, although I do not have an image of Benedict on a skateboard as something likely to happen.

I have promised to send a few coffee-mugs to Irish Catholic in Dublin. Once I can get them in the mail…or the Post as the Hibernians say…they are on their way to Dublin. Perhaps, they can return the favor by sending a few pints of Guinness for an American Taste test. Anyhow, all of the anticipated merchandise for the Benedictine visit should do something for all of the needy charities that are earmarked by the Papal fund, hopefully all concerned parties will make good use of whatever monies are raised.

One thing that Americans should consider when Pope Benedict visits the United States…he is a European and somewhat unfamiliar with American customs, especially large crowds. Most of the Catholic press is indicating that Benedict XVI as Joseph Ratzinger has previously made five visits to the United States. While this might be the case, I have to make sure there is a plug for my alma mater Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. Joseph Ratzinger visited Saint Charles and delivered a symposium there on theological topics he had written about. To my knowledge, most reports have not mentioned this visit as part of the 5 other visits of Joseph Ratzinger to the United States. By the way, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary was host to John-Paul II in 1978, when he visited Philadelphia.

The preparations for the papal visit of John-Paul in 1979 were exciting days for this author when he was a undergraduate student. The anticipation of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI in 2008 is just as exciting for me as it was then.

Let’s all hope that Benedict’s visit will allow American Catholics and the entire county to develop a new awareness of our Catholic identity and values as a global Church.

Hugh McNichol is a freelance Catholic author that writes on Catholic topics and issues. He writes daily at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com

Comments are always welcome at hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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