Tuesday the 2nd of March

...to the ends of the earth

“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Pope merchandise proves popular ahead of pontiff’s visit

Dublin is in the grip of pope merchandise mania as the country gears up for the pontiff’s visit to Ireland this weekend.

Irish-based businesses have set up next to sellers from places as far away as Bethlehem and Belarus, offering everything from candelabras to priest vestments and wine tasting to thirsty pilgrims.

Pope Francis’ image can be seen branded on t-shirts, rosary beads, Bibles, children’s storybooks, priest vestments, candles, jewellery boxes, bags, glasses, cups and other merchandise.

Hundreds of stall holders have descended on the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) for the World Meeting of Families to sell their wares to thousands of visitors attending from all over the world.

One of the most popular stalls so far is the pope doll stall.

The dolls, which retail at 35 euro, are manufactured in Spain and were brought to Ireland from Germany.

Olivier Brady, who mans the stall, says he was surprised at how popular the figurines are across all age ranges.

“They’ve been on quite a journey already to get to Dublin, and it was worth it as they’re really popular.

“They’re limited edition, as only 10,000 have been made, so people have been keen to get them.

“We thought it would be mostly older people buying them for grandchildren and things like that, but we’ve had people of all ages buying them, from teenagers to pensioners.

“As they’re limited I’m sure they will be a collector’s item very soon.”

Afif Khader travelled from Bethlehem to sell his olive wood carvings.

This particular carving skill from the Holy Land dates back to the fourth century and has been passed from generation to generation.

Holy Land Crafters carve nativity scenes, crucifixes, religious statuettes and busts costing from 10 euro up to more than 200.

This year’s World Meeting of Families is Mr Khader’s first, as he usually sells his group crafts in local churches.

“I’m really happy to be here and show and sell our carvings to the Irish people, they’re very popular, people really like them,” he said.

St Killian’s Church Shrine and Supply Sales from Cahir, Co Tipperary, is the only altar wine supplier in Ireland, and it was offering testers to interested visitors.

Eugene Kilbride, from the supplier, said people have been interested in learning about the wine, which is produced in Spain and has an alcohol content of 15 per cent.

“We sell red and white altar wine, mostly to churches, but sometimes priests will buy a bottle for their retired colleagues and things like that.

“We’re the only candelabra producer in Ireland too, everything in the candelabras are Irish-made, through Irish jobs, with a new design and smokeless candles which are better for newer churches.”

Missionaries and charities from across the globe also hosted stalls for visitors to learn about the work Catholic charities do abroad.

Counselling, marriage services, mindfulness apps and alcohol and offender outreach stands could all be accessed by those interested.

The WMOF will culminate with the closing papal Mass in Phoenix Park on Sunday.

More than 37,000 people from 116 countries are expected to attend the RDS for a series of events as part of the Catholic festival.

Picture: Limited edition pope dolls for sale during the World Meeting of Families at the RDS in Dublin. (Brian Lawless/PA).