Thousands Cash In on Pope’s Visit

Official pope merchandise via Aramark
Official Pope Francis items include a flag, bobblehead and bestseller plush toy.

While millions of Catholic faithful line the streets of Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis on his first visit to the United States, thousands hope to divine millions in profits from the pontiff’s six-day stay.

Check out some of the ways big corporations and individual entrepreneurs hope to cash in on a pope critical of capitalism.

Aramark trying to be respectful

Aramark store
Corporate giant Aramark opened its official pope store in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families Congress.

Aramark, the Philadelphia-based conglomerate responsible for food service at institutions including colleges and prisons — including the jail that Pope Francis plans to visit in Philadelphia — is the official merchandising vendor for the World Meeting of Families Congress. The company’s pop-up shop is selling a $20 plush pope doll — the most popular item, an Aramark official told CNN — created by Bleacher Features, which manufactured 50,000 of them. Other items Aramark officials deem respectful are rosaries from $10 to $100 and a commemorative silver cross for $800. See the whole catalog here, including medallions, tote bags and bobbleheads.

Unholy souvenirs galore

Pope is Dope on Etsy
Makers of Pope Is Dope gear display their merchandise on Etsy.

Aramark may be the authorized dealer, but that’s not stopping hawkers from pushing other less-worshipful wares along the papal routes. You can get T-shirts emblazoned with everything from “Best Pope Ever” to “Yo, Adrian, I was there in 2015,” Philly.com reports. Pope Is Dope, a brand assembled by co-workers Gabe Wiener, Kieran Hetznecker and Kody Roman of advertising company Lunchbox Communications, is offering T-shirts, glasses, pins and other gear bearing messages such as “Fresh Pope,” “Jurassic Pope” and “Popemon.” A portion of the proceeds will be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, the sellers say.

You’re inn the money

An AirBnB listing touts a Philadelphia home
An Airbnb listing touts a Philadelphia home within walking distance of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where blocks have been closed off for the 1.5 million people expected to attend a papal Mass.

Rooms close to wherever the pope visits are in hot demand, and people are even putting up their homes to rent to papal visitors.

“It’s easy money,” one temporary landlord said.

You can still get a place in Philadelphia, which in July legalized short-term home rentals ahead of the pope’s visit and next year’s Democratic National Convention. On Airbnb we found a Philadelphia listing that touts the “Best View! Walk to see the pope” from a “Prime Rittenhouse Square” home for $700 a night just “five blocks from Ben Franklin Parkway.” An “elegant” four-bedroom townhouse was posted on Craigslist for $150,000 for a week, while an 875-square-foot apartment was listed for $20,000, Bloomberg Business reported.

The owner of a 1993 Honda Accord even offered to park the car near a transit hub for a traveler willing to pay $30 a night to sleep inside. Technically, it’s illegal to rent out a New York City apartment to someone for less than 30 days if you’re not there, but both Airbnb and HomeAway carry thousands of NYC listings.

In ‘Francis Fields’

fairmont park philadelphia photo
Photo (cc) by shawnzam

You could camp to see Pope Francis. A campground called “Francis Fields” is being set up in Philadelphia’s East Fairmount Park. More than 1.5 million people are expected to celebrate Mass with the pope Sunday just 2 miles away, at Eakins Oval on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

There are 11,500 hotel rooms in the city and 65,000 more within a 60-mile radius, according to Meg Kane, a spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families, but those won’t be enough to hold all the pilgrims. At the campground, vehicle fees are $109 for next-to-car camping, $99 for tent-only parking and $999 for RVs, according to The Morning Call.

Toast the pope

Cape May Brewery
YOPO (You Only Pope Once) Pale Ale by Cape May Brewery

Some beer makers are brewing up special suds for the pope’s visit. Philadelphia Brewing Company created the drought-only Holy Wooder beer. New Jersey’s Cape May Brewing Company created YOPO (You Only Pope Once) Pale Ale. And the Manayunk Brewery in Philly is bottling Papal Ale.

Really toast the pope

The Pope Toaster
The Pope Toaster comes with inserts to burn in either Pope Francis’ image or the words “Spread the Love.”

The pope’s image on toast is a little miracle you can make yourself — for $48.95. The Pope Toaster creator Debby Fireman of Philadelphia told WPIX TV in New York that her product is getting a warm reception.

“People are surprised and excited,” Fireman said.

Inserts that work only in her toaster create a Pope Francis image and the words “Spread the Love.” She also demonstrated how to make “Pope Tarts” — just toast regular Pop-Tarts with the insert.

Let his light shine

Solar Pope by Kikkerland
Pope Francis waves when you shine a light on his solar-power battery.

Why have just a bobblehead? Shine a light on this Pope Francis, and he’ll wave at you from your bookshelf, window or dashboard, says Kikkerland Design, which wants you to shell out $25 for its solar-powered pope. The company says it will donate 2 percent of product sales to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The cheesiest memento

Pastificio Homemade Pasta Co.'s pope cheese
Pastificio Homemade Pasta Co.’s 6-inch tall block of cheese in the image of the pope.

The pope is a really big cheese! So says South Philly’s Pastificio Homemade Pasta Co., which is selling 6-inch-tall, 1-pound blocks of cheese in the image of Pope Francis for $20 each. “There’s no doubt about it, it’s definitely cheesy,” Anthony Messina, co-owner of Pastificio, told Philly.com.

Pope app-eal

DigitalFood's free mobile app
DigitalFood’s free mobile app provides a virtual reality viewing of Pope Francis’ visit.

Can’t get enough of the pope’s visit? There’s an app for that. DigitalFood, the free mobile app for Apple and Android phones for Kroger’s Food 4 Less and Foods Co. shoppers, provides a free, mobile virtual-reality viewing of Pope Francis’ visit. Onscreen instructions to view the visit are on the app.

Share your thoughts on the pope’s visit or how to capitalize on it in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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