World Youth Day stamp rides into trouble…

Vatican withdraws controversial World Youth Day stamp

Lisbon event dogged by controversies already billed as “most expensive yet”

The Portuguese edition of World Youth Day – the largest event in the calendar of the Catholic Church, taking place this summer in Lisbon – has been dogged by controversy from the outset. Today, news is that the controversial commemorative stamp has been “withdrawn from circulation by the Post and Philatelic Services of the Holy See”, as popular tabloid Correio da Manhã reports the event is likely to be “the most expensive World Youth Day in history” – expected to cost around €160 million.

The choice of Lisbon in a year when the Portuguese Catholic Church child sex abuse ‘scandal’ was minutely exposed was always going to be ‘a challenge’. Add to that the cost of lavish works, at least half of which are to be supported by the government and city hall in a year when families are strapped by inflation, and the whole ‘allure-of-it-all’ takes something of a backwards step

Another ‘less than uplifting moment’ has been the Pope’s criticism of the government’s decision to pass a law on euthanasia. Pope Francis is expected at the event (albeit his schedule is not yet confirmed).

Today, CM’s story on the event’s likely price tag (”just the cloakrooms will be costing €3 million”) refers to the “one million young visitors from all over the world expected in the capital”. This may be a ‘mistake’, but reports of the past forecast 1.5 million.

And now the confusion over the ‘stamp’ – unveiled on Monday, scrapped on Wednesday.

Says Lusa, “the news of the stamp’s withdrawal from circulation was confirmed by Radio Renascença to the Holy See, which did not offer any explanations”.

The State news agency concedes that “after the stamp’s image was released, several negative comments were posted on social networks, referring to the graphic imagery of the Estado Novo’s Secretariat of National Propaganda (the regime of Portugal’s former dictator Antonio Salazar) and colonialism.

“The design of the stamp, launched together with a commemorative stamp with the WYD logo, is by Stefano Morri.

“In the same way as the helmsman Henry (The Navigator) leads the crew in the discovery of the new world, so too on the Vatican stamp Pope Francis leads the young people and the Church,” explained a note published on the Vatican news website, Vatican News.

“Questioned on the controversy generated, Portuguese bishop Carlos Moreira Azevedo, delegate of the pontifical committee for historical sciences, considered the image of the WYD commemorative stamp released by the Vatican to be in “very bad taste”.

“For Carlos Azevedo, who works at the Vatican, the stamp ‘uses a very concocted work’ and ‘epically evokes a pastoral reality that does not correspond to that spirit’.

“Also on Tuesday, the organisation of World Youth Day clarified that the commemorative stamp presented by the Vatican aimed only to “promote” the meeting of young people with the Pope, ruling out readings that would identify him with the the regime of Portugal’s former dictator Antonio Salazar, the Estado Novo, or Portuguese colonialism”.

Lusa reiterates that it has “questioned the Vatican’s Postal and Philatelic Service to obtain information about the stamp’s withdrawal from circulation, but has had no reply so far”.

[email protected]