Just in time for the holidays, it's the papal merchandise clearance sale!
With the same enthusiasm that went into preparations for Pope John Paul II's visit Oct. 8, the Archdiocese of Baltimore is putting on a two-day event at St. Mary's Seminary in Roland Park today and tomorrow, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., where papal souvenirs will be on sale.
If you're looking for that unique Christmas gift or stocking stuffer -- a mug or pennant with the papal logo, a banner from the papal parade route, a photo of a loved one with the pontiff -- this is your chance.
The papal merchandise vendor "has decided to slash prices, half or below-half off," said Bill Blaul, an archdiocesan spokesman. "Sale, sale, sale!"
Discounted merchandise, all of which features the official sunburst logo for the Baltimore papal visit, includes T-shirts that will sell for $7; coffee mugs, a steal at $4; and key rings that anyone can afford at a buck apiece.
The banners that lined the parade route will be sold for $10, while supplies last, quantities limited. There are even several official blazers worn by papal visit volunteers, some in red, some in royal blue. "Who would want a blazer?" Mr. Blaul said. "I don't know, but that rack will be cleaned out."
Those who want something for nothing can pick up the free poster advertising the archdiocese's 1994 collection that was taken to pay for the papal visit. It features a photograph of the pope in Denver, with Cardinal William H. Keeler at his side.
Some items full price
Not everything is discounted. The official hourlong video of the papal visit will be screened for the first time and orders will be taken. The official papal visit book, "Pope John Paul II in Baltimore," will be sold in both soft and hard cover.
And for anyone who might have gotten close to the pope during his daylong visit, the Vatican photographer might have caught you on film. Arturo Mari of L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, sent over 1,384 photographs, in tiny frames on long sheets. More than 500 of the pictures feature individuals meeting the pope. The sheets will be laid out on tables so that anyone who may have been caught for posterity with the pope can scan them. Photographs can be ordered directly from Rome.
Any money the archdiocese makes from the sale will go toward paying for the cost of the papal visit, although it doesn't expect to make much.
"Basically, we just want to provide a service," said Monsignor W. Francis Malooly, the archdiocesan chancellor. "It's just a way to continue the spirit of the papal visit."
Television anchorman Rod Daniels, also an amateur photographer, will be selling five photographs he took during the papal Mass.
Mr. Daniels was a master of ceremonies for the Camden Yards event, allowing him great access to the pope. "I was real lucky," he said. "I had maybe the best view of all the photographers."
Mr. Daniels, who is Catholic, said he would donate the proceeds from the photo sales to the archdiocese.
Those who desire a more permanent souvenir can buy a brick for $60 that will go in the Broadway Pier section of the Waterfront Promenade, surrounding a center stone that commemorates John Paul's visit.
"It's right next to Cal Ripken," said Jerome Bird, executive director of the Baltimore Harbor Endowment, as he set up his display yesterday.
"These bricks are permanent. Other mementos sort of get lost on the knickknack shelf. This will stay around for a long time."
Some sales slow
The archdiocese doesn't have a monopoly on the discount papal merchandise market. At Arcadia, a shop at the Gallery at Harborplace, nine papal sipper bottles sit on the clearance table, marked half off. At the Maryland Bay Company in the Light Street Pavilion across the street, Robyn Coller said what merchandise remains -- mostly key chains, pennants and lapel pins, all discounted -- has been moving slowly. "People say, 'Oh that's right, the pope was here,' so I assume they're out-of-town people. Then they'll grab something," she said.
Not so at Greetings & Readings in Towson, where store president Steven Baum said the merchandise is moving, at regular prices. "When things were downtown, prices were dramatically inflated. We never sold anything for what they sold it for downtown," Mr. Baum said.
"We still have a lot of stuff and it's still moving," he said. "It's a great Christmas gift, and people are still hyped up about it."