In keeping with previous papal visits, Pope Francis' U.S. visit in September has spurred a mad dash among souvenir sellers. For $160, you can order an official, life-size "cutout" of the pontiff from the group organizing one of the events in Philadelphia.
Those 69-inch "standup" versions of Pope Francis, whose global popularity is perhaps the only thing larger than the replicas themselves, are being placed around Philadelphia so people can take selfies and share them on social media, the Associated Press reported.
"Pope Francis is described as the people's pope. So we have him in places where many people can see him," World Meeting of Families digital content manager Nancy Caramanico told the news agency. "People are just really excited to be around him and are anticipating his visit to Philadelphia."
Nineteen-year-old college student Jennifer D'Angelo will be in school when Pope Francis visits her hometown, the AP reported, so she took the opportunity to pose with a two-dimensional cutout of the pope on display at a food court.
"It seems like he's trying to bring the Catholic Church together," D'Angelo, 19, said. "I think he's doing a great job. I'm just kind of sad that I'm not going to be in the city when he comes."
The family-focused event is one of the chief highlights of Pope Francis' first U.S. visit, which has been anticipated since his election as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in 2013. Another will be an address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in Washington. While in the nation's capital, Pope Francis will also canonize missionary Father Junipero Serra, whose activity paved the way for Catholicism in parts of Mexico and what is now the state of California, according to Mission San Diego.
The pope will also address a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25, the world body said.
For those seeking a less-grand papal presence, you can also order a variety of posters, a coffee mug emblazoned with some of the pope's more notable quotations, and a 10-inch tall Pope Francis "plush doll" that is "surface wash only."
Merchandising papal visits has a long tradition in the United States and elsewhere. In 1987, the U.S. tour undertaken by Saint John Paul II, then in the ninth year of his pontificate, inspired such items as a "Pope-Scope," a cardboard tube with small mirrors at an angle, so people could see his motorcade over the heads of others. Other souvenirs included buttons, a T-shirt inscribed "Your Holiness, Welcome to Texas" and additional booklets, a selection of which was for sale via the online auction site eBay for $49.99.
Six years later, mindful of such kitsch as "Pope-on-a-Rope" soap bars, Catholic leaders in 1993 prepared for another Pope John Paul II visit to America by hiring the Famous Artists Merchandising Exchange of Dayton, Ohio, to handle licensing of the pope's image, according to The New York Times (paywall).
"More than 100 items were deemed acceptable, including those approved to bear the Pope's countenance: medallions, T-shirts, posters, postcards, lithographs, fanny packs and the Pope-Scope," the newspaper reported.3 comments on this story
Perhaps one of the most notable pope-related products emerged during a 1965 visit to New York by Pope Paul VI. It came during a newspaper strike, leaving journalists for The New York Times and other print outlets to cover a story they couldn't distribute in those pre-Internet days. The answer? An "instant book" created by Times staffers and Bantam Books, a paperback publisher that released 500,000 copies of the story within four days of the visit. As the Times reported, Pope Paul VI "got his copy for free."