The Vatican post office on Friday issued a set of stamps for use during the “Sede Vacante,” or Vacant See, created by the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The unusual interregnum stamps, a series of four, include the Vacant See symbol a striped umbrella over crossed keys as well as the words Sede Vacante, Citta del Vaticano and MMXIII, the year in Roman numerals.
The collector’s items are valid until a new pope is elected in a conclave next month. They are expected to become especially valuable if postmarked on the first day. The special postmark for the stamps reads simply Sede Vacante MMXIII. The stamps have a face value of 70 euro cents (Rs 50) for Italy, 85 cents for Europe and the Mediterranean, two euros for Africa, Asia and the United States and 2.50 euros for Australia.
The tradition of commemorative stamps to the ‘Sede Vacante’ dates back to 1939. Special coins marking the upcoming Sede Vacante will also be released. However, collectors will have to wait longer for the coins, which may be out as late as May, said an official at the Vatican’s stamp and coin office. A 2 euro coin and a silver 5 euro commemorative coin will be issued for sale, while a portion of the 2 euro coins will be put into general circulation.
The Sede Vacante coins will have the denomination on one side and the Sede Vacante symbol on the other. The coin issue takes longer because Vatican coins are produced by the Italian mint and work is backlogged, the official said. Even the plaster mold of the designs still has to be made, he added. The last of the Pope Benedict XVI coins, which bear the portrait of the pope, will be issued end of March.
Cardinals will meet on Monday
Roman Catholic cardinals will next week take the first step toward setting a date for a conclave that will elect a new pope, Vatican officials confirmed on Friday. The cardinals will begin informal discussions of church issues, known as general congregations. At the top of their agenda will be the announcement of a date for the cardinals to enter the conclave a closed, secret voting session held inside the Sistine Chapel that continues until they agree on a new leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.