What happens when you give the Pope a birthday present?

Pope Francis will receive thousands of gifts for his 80th birthday Saturday, from heads of state and the ordinary faithful.
Among these gifts are a wood-framed pair of glasses made from part of a 1,600-year-old olive tree. That gift is from Viktor and Sand Jeromil of Croatia, the newspaper Croatia Week reports.
Gifts like these from the faithful are often presented to the Pope in the form of pictures. Gifts from heads of state, however, are officially delivered.
By tradition, the most precious gifts are given to the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Library, or the Sacristy and Treasury Museum. The other gifts are handled by the Floreria Apostolica, an institution within the Vatican walls that provides for furniture and decorations of the Holy Palaces and for the setting of St. Peter’s Square during the general audiences.
The Floreria runs the Pope’s so-called “private warehouse.” Gifts are generally stored there and sometimes re-gifted. Under Pope Francis, some of the presents are sold in the store within the Vatican walls where only Vatican employees can shop.
The store is located at the historic Vatican train station. It displays the presents behind a glass at its entrance, where any shopper can buy a gift by making a “minimum offer,” or more than the set price. All the proceeds go to the Pope’s charity.
Some papal gifts have included perishable foods, which are put to good use.
In 2010, Benedict XVI received an expensive and rare white truffle of Alba. He gave it to the refectory of Caritas Italy. It was able to provide the homeless with a precious menu of rice and meat flavored with the white truffle. That day, the homeless ate like kings.
Some of the presents are chosen as prizes for the Christmas lottery the Vatican has launched under Pope Francis. Lottery tickets cost 10 euros ($10.40each, with some 40 prizes available. This is the fourth year the lottery takes place, and most lottery proceeds will go to relief efforts for those stricken by the Aug. 24 earthquake in central Italy.

By Andrea Gagliarducci

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