Fake blessings: Italian police seize counterfeit papal benedictions

With tourists flocking to the Vatican for the holy year of mercy, police in Italy have seized 3,500 fake papal benedictions as part of a crackdown on counterfeit goods.

2016 will be a holy year as declared by Pope Francis.

2016 will be a holy year as declared by Pope Francis. Image by AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Visitors have begun to arrive in Rome to celebrate the jubilee year, which started on 8 December and continues until runs until 20 November 2016. The Vatican has been selling parchments with a blessing from Pope Francis, with the proceeds going to the help the needy. The parchments are typically bought to mark occasions like marriages, baptisms and birthdays, and in a holy year they show proof a pilgrimage to the Vatican.

But police have now seized fake versions of the typically ornate parchments, which contain a fake seal and a photograph of the Pope to commemorate the jubilee year. The police have now uncovered the printer behind the scam and the souvenir shop where they were being sold, reports the Guardian.

The fake scrolls were valued at about €70,000, or $76,000 USD. When a real one is purchased within the Vatican, they cost between $8 and $40, reports the New York Times. The last jubilee year was held in 2000.

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