Fake blessing in disguise

By Stuart Fuller


We see a lot of counterfeit items being sold online.  In fact it is probably fair to say that virtually every successful brand suffers at some time, somewhere at the hands of fraudsters.  The current headline news surrounds the latest, must-have accessory, the hoverboard which has suffered mercilessly at the hands of counterfeiters.  UK Trading Standards believe as many as nine in every ten products on sale in the UK are counterfeit, made with parts that could lead to injury of the users or even fires from unsafe charging devices.

There have been instances of fake stores (Apple in China being the most famous one), fake events, fake jobs and fake universities.  But today one story caught our eye from Rome.  It appears that even the holiest of the holy is not immune to being the subject of counterfeiting.

As part of a major blitz on counterfeiting, Italian Police seized around a million counterfeit items in a week of raids.  Whilst the usual luxury brands and consumer goods would have been in the haul, the authorities also confiscated 3,500 “Papal benedictions” that had a street value of around £50,000.

With the Vatican celebrating its Jubilee Year, visitor numbers to Rome and the Holy See have risen and so have the traders looking to make a profit.  The Vatican has for years offered written Papal blessings for sale to visitors, with visitors able to request a specific parchment through the www.vatican.va website.  The colourful and ornate parchments, which for centuries were painted and written by hand and bought for marriages and baptisms, have since January been produced electronically to cut production costs and reduce the risk of fraud.  Alas, it now seems that fraudsters have moved with the times and started printing their own parchments and selling them outside of the Vatican.

The Italian interior minister, Angelino Alfano, showed journalists one of the documents, which are produced in several languages, complete with a fake papal seal and a photograph of the smiling Argentinian pontiff.
A search online for Papal Blessings for sale reveals a number of websites who offer “products” that claim to either have been blessed by the Pontiff (including shipments of Pendants from China) or forms of blessing.
It appears that even the most holiest man on earth is not immune to the age-old crime of counterfeiting.