For nearly two months now the Philadelphia area has been inundated with information, news, and hype surrounding this week’s visit to Philadelphia by Pope Francis. It’s truly been non-stop and never-ending: information about the security surrounding the pope’s visit, how to get to where the pope will be appearing (sort of like he’s playing a nightclub), which roads will be open and which will be closed, where the security fences will be, how to get tickets to various events, and much, much more. So much of the commercial center of Philadelphia will be closed to traffic that many businesses are closing for the visit while those that are choosing to remain open are worried about how to get their employees and supplies in and out. Hospitals are rolling out cots and paying their employees extra to sleep over. The Curmudgeon’s sister is a Philadelphia public school teacher and she’ll have off the two days because the school district knows it can’t possible count on all of its teachers being able to get to their schools. The Curmudgeon’s brother has chosen to use two vacation days because he can’t figure out a way to get to his office, which isn’t even in Philadelphia, because of all the roads that will be closed.

Of course, even an event as spiritual in nature as the visit of the pope has its commercial aspects, and this event is no exception.

In June, the World Meeting of Families, which is sponsoring the pope’s visit, announced that it had chosen an “official retail vendor” for the occasion – because every religious event needs an official retail vendor, doesn’t it? That vendor is Aramark, a company you probably know best for the indigestion you get when you eat its food at ballparks, museums, and company and college cafeterias. That certainly qualifies the company to sell pontiff memorabilia, right?

nutterAt the announcement of the official retail vendor, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter showed no shame, posing for photographers with the official plush pope doll ($20).   Other items introduced at the time ranged in price from five dollars to five hundred, and in the shopping area of the World Meeting of Families – because every religious organization’s web site needs a shopping area – you’ll find the Pope Francis World Meeting of Families Lenox Commemorative Ivory Bone China with 24 Karat Gold Gild plate ($60); the Pope Francis Antique Bronze Medallion ($50); the Blue Round Floral Pattern Glass-Beaded Rosary ($20); the Portrait Tote Bag ($10); assorted t-shirts, hoodies, polo shirts, and jackets; a life-size (apparently the pope, like The Curmudgeon, is 5’9” tall) cardboard cutout of the pope (great for selfies, the site boasts); various coffee mugs and drinking glasses; and of course, because every celebrity needs one, a pope bobblehead.
Yes, a bobblehead.














But those are only the official Pope Francis souvenirs; there’s so much more – and so much more fun.

For example, for the well-dressed pope-watcher, a pope necktie.

pope tie








Or for thirsty pope fans, a pope shot glass.










Philadelphia is a rabid sports town, so a pope Eagles t-shirt.

pope eagles t shirt












Or a pope Phillies baseball card.

pope baseball card












Or a series of dolls depicting the pope and Rocky (and Benjamin Franklin).

pope with rocky










Speaking of Rocky, a gift shop at the Jersey shore featured this t-shirt with an expression out of Rocky’s limited vocabulary.

ocean city














The folks who make those silly emojis have come out with a new line of symbols to celebrate the pope’s visit to the U.S., and among those emojis is one with his holiness eating – of course – a Philly cheese steak.

pope cheesesteak emoji












And speaking of food, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a distributor of pizza boxes has a new box with an image of the pope welcoming him to Philadelphia.

As if Francis is going to order one with pepperoni while he’s here.

There’s even an Etsy store dedicated to pope-in-Philadelphia memorabilia.

In another article, the Inquirer reported on pope-related offerings at Philadelphia-area restaurants, including:

  • a $45 prix fixe menu of cucina povera, or “cuisine of the poor”
  • a “bar-side confessional” discount on Peroni and Italian craft beers
  • a “Pope’s pasta hat” with sheep’s milk, ricotta, and beets
  • a “Basilicia” burger
  • a pope pub crawl
  • a pope milkshake: vanilla ice cream and shortbread butter cookies
  • 24 religious-themes beers (“Lost Abbey,” “Evil Twin,” “Firestone Walker,” and others
  • wines from Argentina, the pope’s birthplace
  • a meal called “The Epiphany” with tenderloin beef, homemade mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, grilled romaine, and Argentinean chimichurri sauce on focaccia bread
  • pope-blend coffee

And then there’s a new pope cheese: a six-inch, one-pound likeness carved from mozzarella that sells for $20.

pope cheese


















While not a material memento, the Philadelphia Inquirer decided Philadelphians might want a musical remembrance of the pope’s visit so yesterday it published its special “papal playlist.”

  1.  “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo,” Patti Smith.“Jesus died, for somebody’s sins … but not mine!” Those opening lines from this signature song by the punk-poet who spent her formative years in Germantown and Deptford might move some to label her a blasphemer. But not Pope Francis, who invited Smith to play at this Vatican Christmas concert last year.
  2. “Highway 61 Revisited,” Bob Dylan. A Biblical tale of the Old Testament variety. Religious imagery courses through Dylan’s work. This one makes the cut over the (underrated) songs on Slow Train Comin’ and Saved.
  3. “God Only Knows,” The Beach Boys. “A teenage symphony to God” is what Brian Wilson told people he was attempting with his unfinished 1960s opus Smile. This tune comes from 1966’s Pet Sounds, the masterpiece he did get done.
  4. “Like A Prayer,” Madonna. The title cut to a 1989 album by the Catholic pop star who will undoubtedly have a Pope week provocation in store when she plays the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.
  5. “Badlands,” Bruce Springsteen. As with Dylan, there are many spiritual Springsteen avenues. But let’s go with the Boss gazing skyward in concert when he sings: “I believe in the love that you gave me/ I believe in the faith that could save me.”
  6. St. Matthew Passion, Anne Sophie von Otter and Baroque Concerto Copenhagen. Johann Sebastian Bach liturgical music of which Pope Francis has declared himself a fan.
  7. “Spirit In The Dark,” Aretha Franklin. Secular hymn by the Queen of Soul, who will sing on Saturday. From Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live in Philly, 1972.
  8. “How I Got Over,” Clara Ward. Hymn written by the great Philadelphia gospel singer that became a civil-rights movement sing-along, and also inspired The Roots’ 2010 album of the same name.
  9. “Amazing Grace,” The Swan Silvertones. The enduring 18th-century hymn by the close harmony group led by the amazing falsetto of Rev. Claude Jeter.
  10. “Strong As Death, Sweet As Love,” Al Green. Underheard 1975 classic from one of Jeter’s ardent disciples, the Rev. Al’s voice soaring skyward as he hopes to find salvation “with the grace of God above.”
  11. “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea,” Louvin Brothers. The greatest of country sibling duos, expressing a belief that even the debased may be ultimately exalted.
  12. “Sisters Of Mercy,” Leonard Cohen. “They brought me comfort, and then they brought me this song.” Salvation in the form of a visit from the muse, from the Canadian Jewish Zen Buddhist.
  13. “Divine Intervention,” Matthew Sweet. Sweet must have felt that divine intervention was at play to have both Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd play on his 1991 album.
  14. “Jesus,” Velvet Underground. The Velvets were supposed to be all about decadence, but this quietly desperate prayer is a model of understated beauty.
  15. “Jesus Walks, Kanye West. Before he was Yeezus, West introduced the world to has ambition on this gospel rapper, with an assist from John Legend.
  16. “We Are Family,” Sister Sledge. The 1979 hit written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, now perfectly repurposed for the World Meeting Of Families.
  17. Mass In C Minor, Claudio Abbado. Mozart, a Francis fave, with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by the late Italian maestro.
  18. Parsifal: “Amfortas! Die Wunde!,” Jonas Kaufman. The Pope is partial to Parsifal where Wagner is concerned, he told interviewers in 2013.
  19. “Sinnerman,” Nina Simone. Francis has said he identifies with the sinner Jesus points at in Caravaggio’s Calling Of St. Matthew. Simone recorded her definitive version of this African American spiritual in 1965.
  20. “After The Gold Rush,” Thom Yorke. The pope is an eco-warrior, and one suspects he would get along fine with Neil Young. But Young has pulled his music off Spotify, so this cover is by the Radiohead singer.
  21. “Get Right With God,” Lucinda Williams. Slide guitar roots boogie music that aims to get in the good graces of the Lord, from 2001’s Essence.
  22. “The Christian Life,” The Byrds. An unironic Louvin Brothers cover, from the 1968 Sweethearts of the Rodeo album, featuring Gram Parsons.
  23. “Gimme A Ride To Heaven,” Terry Allen. Otherwise known as the “hitchhiking Jesus song” from underrated West Texas songwriter. Comic relief.
  24. “Reason To Believe,” Rod Stewart. Tim Hardin’s soul-searcher, sung by a spiritually seeking Rod the Mod.
  25. “Spirit In The Sky,” Norman Greenbaum. A 1969 fuzz-rock smash for one-hit wonder Greenbaum, a Jewish psychedelic rocker who saw country star Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on TV and thought he’d try his hand at writing his own tune about spending the afterlife with his “friend in Jesus.”

There’s only one thing missing. Those of you of a certain age may recall Father Guido Sarducci, a late 1970s/early 1980s Saturday Night Live character who once extolled the virtues of the ultimate pope personal care product: the “pope on a rope.”

pope on a rope












The Curmudgeon is not alone among those excited that the pope is coming to his hometown yet eagerly looking forward to putting this frenzy behind him.

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