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Nearly 500 artisans set to lose their jobs in Vatican

Nearly 500 artisans set to lose their jobs in Vatican
But with the Vatican cracking down on the business amid reports of fake parchments being peddled to unwitting tourists for pricey sums, the family studio in the heart of Rome is being forced to close -- with hundreds of artisans at risk of losing their jobs.Calligraphers and painters will have to lay down their tools on December 31, as Pope Francis tries to ensure the Church’s apostolic benedictions, which were first issued about 100 years ago under Pope Leo XIII, raise as much money as possible for the poor. Instead of being made by hand, the parchments will be computer prints produced by the Vatican’s Office of Papal Charities, which the pope’s almoner says will cut costs, stamp out fakes and raise more for charity.

The decision has sparked anger among artisans who point out that Francis usually prides himself on defending workers’ rights and has railed against a world obsessed with profit.

“If Pope Francis really wanted to be honest he would say that blessings can be neither bought nor sold,” Sabina Turtura, head of a movement to defend the papal parchment profession said. “Instead, the Vatican’s saying greater profits equal more charity, which is not very Christian,” she said.

On wide desks covered in bottles of inks, tubes of paint and stickers of a smiling Francis, Rome’s artisans race to finish the last orders, carefully penning in the name of recipients on scrolls framed by brightly-coloured Vatican emblems.

The parchments were traditionally sold for between seven and 25 euros ($8.60 and $30) in shops in the Borgo neighbourhood around the tiny city state, to be shown off at weddings in Montevideo, priesthood ordinations in Manila or a 100th birthday party in Paris. Paolo Pensa started working with his father Rino as a teenager and Pensa senior, now 92, still plays an active role in the family business, 65 years after setting up shop.

The Vatican “sent us a letter which said that from January 1st they will be the only ones authorised to produce these parchments. I’ll be out of a job, as will the seven people who work with me,” he said.
Pensa and Turtura have written to Francis asking him to rethink the decision to close down external
production. 

Agencies

Agencies

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