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Rome's souvenir industry preps for new pope

It is a significant event in world history, so what better way to commemorate the choosing of a new pope than with a decorative plate, or maybe a set of prayer cards and matching rosary beads?

While officials at the Vatican began physical preparations for the papal conclave, including the installation on Saturday of the chimney stack from which white smoke will indicate the new pope, Rome’s souvenir industry was also making plans.


Holy smoke: Authorities have installed the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel ahead of the conclave, which will release black or white smoke. White signifies a new pope has been elected, whereas black means no one has been elected. Pic/AFP

Vendors said tens of thousands of ornaments and posters bearing the image of the new pope are expected to be on sale — sometimes within hours of the announcement of his name.

“As soon as the new pope is chosen, our suppliers are ready to go to work straight away – boom, boom, boom, just like that,” explained Rosanna Barone, a sales assistant at one of the shops and stalls that line the Via della Conciliazione.

“Some of the things are made in Rome and we can have them quickly,” she said. “For the cards and maybe mugs, things that are easier to make, maybe we will have them the next day or the day after.”

Alabaster figurines, typically made in Italy’s Tuscany region, and items from China will take longer. The memorabilia business is serious business both for the small stalls and shops, and the Vatican itself. More than five million tourists visit the Vatican’s grounds and museums every year.

When asked about the future pope, a vendor said, “It’s the Vatican, and people will always come here, whoever is the pope. The different name doesn’t matter to people. The pope is the pope is the pope.”
 

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