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What Does One Gift a Pope?

  • Margaret Besheer

A medal commemorating the World Meeting of Families. (VOA / M. Besheer)

A medal commemorating the World Meeting of Families. (VOA / M. Besheer)

When U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Pope Francis to the United Nations Friday, the two men did the traditional things leaders do — they posed for photos, greeted staff and children, and the pope signed the U.N. guest book. They also exchanged gifts.

Which begs the question, what does one give the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, especially when he eschews traditional papal luxury and lives simply? Creativity is required.

Stamp album

The U.N. chief offered Francis a leather-bound stamp album, which Ban personally inscribed.

A mosaic of the Holy Family commemorating the World Meeting of Families.(VOA / M. Besheer))

A mosaic of the Holy Family commemorating the World Meeting of Families.(VOA / M. Besheer))

It contains a selection of stamps issued by the U.N.’s Postal Administration (yes, the U.N. issues its own stamps). They illustrate U.N. themes, including endangered species, disabilities, world heritage and the International Year of Family Farming.

A U.N. diplomat said different departments and officials can suggest gift ideas, but ultimately it is the secretary-general who selects it.

Mosaic, medal

For his part, the pontiff offered the secretary-general, who he has met three times before at the Vatican, a mosaic of the Holy Family and a medal commemorating his U.S. visit.

The mosaic is inspired by a Francesco Mancini painting that is kept at a Benedictine monastery in in Rome.

The medal is inscribed with a picture of the U.S. Liberty Bell and the words “World Meeting of Families, Philadelphia 2015.”

Francis heads to Philadelphia on Saturday on the final leg of his six-day U.S. tour.

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