Weather Updates

Like Benedict, bookstore will be retiring papal figure

A photographic life-sized image Pope Benedict white cassock with pellegrinfringed white fascihas graced Pax Vobiscum Gifts Ave MariBooks downtown Genevfor

A photographic, life-sized image of Pope Benedict, in white cassock with pellegrina and fringed white fascia, has graced Pax Vobiscum Gifts and Ave Maria Books in downtown Geneva for the past 2 years. The image will be retired, just as Benedict leaves as the supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

storyidforme: 45422149
tmspicid: 16839098
fileheaderid: 7581674

Updated: April 2, 2013 6:32AM

GENEVA — While the world watched as Pope Benedict XVI left Vatican City for the last time on Thursday, so too are the days numbered for shoppers fascinated by a life-sized image of the pontiff.

A cardboard cutout of Pope Benedict wearing his signature red leather papal shoes and white cassock, with his hands folded and a smile on his face, has greeted people walking into Pax Vobiscum Gifts and Ave Maria Books for the past two years.

The Roman Catholic gifts and bookstore is in The Berry House at 222 S. Third St. in downtown Geneva.

Shoppers come for the store’s vast collection of Catholic medals, crucifixes, First Communion gifts and books — and they have been known to pause and reflect on what it would be like to meet Pope Benedict up close.

“People are stunned and take a step back in surprise when they see him,” store owner Florence Ranson said on Thursday, a historic day in the Roman Catholic Church.

Ranson purchased the life-sized photograph of Pope Benedict at a tradeshow for the purpose of displaying it in the shop, not realizing how receptive people would be.

“People like to have their picture taken next to the Pope and post it on their Facebook page to impress their friends. During community events we have people waiting in line to get a picture with the Pope — it looks very lifelike,” Ranson said.

Ranson and her business partner Judy Sabo coincidentally were selected to decorate the building’s storefront window for the month of March. Ranson said at the encouragement of their landlord, they decided to place the figure of the pope in the window with a farewell ribbon out of respect for the supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Benedict will now be known as “His Holiness Benedict XVI” and “Emeritus Pope” in retirement. It has been nearly 600 years since a pope has stepped away from the position.

“It is bittersweet to see him leave — we usually have a pope until the end. It was a shock to all of us, but he has done much for the Church and as time goes on we will realize all that he has done,” Ranson said.

But just as the Pope Benedict said goodbye to a crowd of faithful from the balcony of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo near Rome on Thursday, people will no longer be seeing the cutout in his likeness at the Geneva store after March.

“We will keep him, but (the image of) Pope Benedict will no longer be placed on display in the store. It would not be correct to display him in a position as pope. His Holiness especially, probably would not want it because he is such a humble man,” Ranson said.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.