With entrepreneurs brazen enough to sell Pope-on-a-Rope soap during previous papal visits to the World Youth Festival, there is no telling what a little American ingenuity will create for Pope John Paul II's trip to Denver in August.
But now that the church has given its official blessing to merchandising the pontiff, there will be plenty of official souvenirs to take home.
To keep items of questionable taste out of the mix, and to offset the cost of the trip, the church has authorized the first official merchandising campaign that includes pope products.
At the festival, a biennial event for young Catholics being held for the first time this year in the United States, more than 100 church-sanctioned items will be available, including T-shirts, fanny packs and something called a Pope-Scope, which allows a viewer to see over the heads of those standing in front. Many of these items will bear the likeness of the pope.
To oversee the licensing arrangements, the church has hired a company well versed in marketing. Famous Artists Merchandising Exchange of Dayton, Ohio, has represented the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, the Toronto Blue Jays even the University of Notre Dame, but never a pope.
"This is not what I would consider to be a for-profit situation like 'Jurassic Park' or Barney," John C. Lemke, president of FAME, said.
Nevertheless, with organizers expecting more than 110,000 people from around the world, the projected cost is a minimum of $6.5 million. Lemke said sales of licensed products could defray as much as 20 percent of the expenses.
In planning for the event, organizers became aware of a common complaint from those who had attended previous festivals: There were no official souvenirs to take home. And what is a major event in the United States without some trinket or T-shirt?