Pope in Ireland: From 'lollipopes' to bunting

By Niall Glynn

Image source, Dundalk Democrat
Image caption,
'Lollipopes' are among the more unusual items on sale for the Pope's visit

While the biggest impact of Pope Francis' long-awaited visit to Ireland is likely to be spiritual, there's no doubt that the visit also represents a merchandising dream.

Ahead of the visit, a range of items, from reusable canvas Pope bags to "lollipopes" have been flying off the shelves.

They also vary from the practical, such as a folding cardboard Pope seat, to more commemorative items that may remain in households for years to come.

Big name retailers are seizing the opportunity - among the items Dunnes Stores is selling are commemorative T-shirts - while budget shop Dealz is selling the aforementioned 'lollipope'.

Image source, Veritas
Image caption,
Religious retailer Veritas' range includes these T-shirts and canvas bags

Dealz said it had already sold more than 50% of its stock of lollipopes, while Pope bunting is also selling well.

Smaller retailers and a few enterprising entrepreneurs are also getting in on the act.

Veritas, a religious publisher and retailer, with shops on both sides of the Irish border, has brought out a range of 'Pope Francis in Ireland' merchandise to mark the visit.

"Everything from umbrellas to mugs to fridge magnets, keyrings, flags, bunting - loads of that kind of merchandise and it's gone down very well," explained Veritas CEO Aidan Chester.

So what are people buying to commemorate the papal visit?

Image source, Charles McQuillan
Image caption,
Traditional items, such as statues, are also selling well in shops

"The Pope Francis pens, the bunting has proved very popular, the Pope Francis mugs have sold very well," Mr Chester said.

"We sell rosary beads and candles and more traditional products that are always strong sellers for us and they've been selling particularly well.

Image source, Veritas
Image caption,
People want to be able to keep items after the Pope has left

"But, I suppose, new products for us, like the recyclable chair, the mug, umbrellas, we have a canvas recyclable bag - very much in keeping with what Pope Francis is about - they've proved very popular so far."

He said the shop would not normally stock those kind of items, but they thought it was something that might interest younger customers.

"I was in one of the shops the other day and there were loads of teenagers all gathered around a table where the stuff was and they were buying everything from the range really," he said.

Image source, Gill, Sinead
Image caption,
The Pope Francis folding chair is among the most popular - and practical -items

"So it's proving to be popular with young and old alike."

One of the most popular items and perhaps the most practical, considering up to 500,000 people are expected in Dublin's Phoenix Park, is a reusable, cardboard Pope chair.

The chair is the brainchild of Dublin man John McGarry, who came up with it after finding himself standing for hours at sporting events and concerts.

"I heard that people could be on their feet for up to eight hours when they go to see the Pope. This chair is very lightweight and has a handle, so it's completely portable," Mr McGarry said.

"Alongside being a great souvenir of this historic day, it's completely biodegradable."

Image caption,
The Holy Shop in Belfast is expecting an upsurge in sales as the visit get closer

In Belfast, the Holy Shop also has its own range of papal memorabilia.

"We have candles, different kinds of pictures, holy water bottles with his picture on them, books, magnets, prayer cards, medals," the store's manager Mary Lavery said.

"At the minute the prayer cards and the candles are selling best."

Image source, Charles McQuillan
Image caption,
Merchandise marking the papal visit to Ireland has been selling like hotcakes

"I would say next week when people are going down, that's when you'll see the influx of people coming in and looking for stuff to bring down and get it blessed."

Aidan Chester said that while merchandise should mark the occasion, it was also important that it stands the test of time.

"There was a woman in here who still has her Pope John Paul II chair that she had from 1979, a small metal folding one," he said.

"So people want to keep these items after the Pope has been and gone."

Papal visit to Ireland: Itinerary highlights

Saturday 25 August

  • 08:15 - Departure by plane from Rome for Dublin
  • 10:30 - Arrival at Dublin Airport for official welcome
  • 10:45 - Transfer to Áras an Uachtaráin (Irish president's residence)
  • 11:15 - Welcome ceremony with President Michael D. Higgins
  • 12:10 - Arrival at Dublin Castle for meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomatic corps
  • 15:30 - Visit to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral
  • 16:30 - Private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre, a centre for homeless people
  • 19:45 - Preside at the Festival of Families at Croke Park stadium

Sunday, 26 August

  • 08:40 - Departure by plane for Knock
  • 09:45 - Arrival at Knock Shrine for visit to the Apparition Chapel and recitation of the Angelus
  • 11:15 - Departure by plane for Dublin
  • 12:30 - Lunch with the Papal Delegation
  • 15:00 - Closing Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park followed by a meeting with the Irish bishops
  • 18:30 - Farewell ceremony at Dublin Airport
  • 18:45 - Departure by plane for Rome
  • 23:00 - Arrival in Rome

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