Only the most avid collectors and stamp enthusiasts will be familiar with the Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office. Managed by the Vatican postal service, this entity is in charge of issuing, promoting and selling coins, medals and stamps, which are collected by connoisseurs around the world.
Their latest addition is a stamp to honor Pope Benedict XVI. It was issued on January 31, exactly a month after his passing, and features a photo taken in 2009, while the Pope was on vacation in the Aosta Valley in the North of Italy. The press release on the stamp states that it wants to recall the German Pontiff’s dedication to the Virgin Mary.
“Those who — like Mary — open themselves totally to God, come to accept the divine will, even though it is mysterious, although it often does not correspond with their own wishes, and is a sword that pierces their soul, as the elderly Simeon would say prophetically to Mary when Jesus was presented in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:35),” Benedict XVI said during a general audience on December 19, 2012.
The stamp also wants to express the “fragrance of gratitude,” that Pope Francis mentioned in his homily during Benedict XVI’s funeral on January 5th.
“God’s faithful people, gathered here, now accompanies and entrusts to him the life of the one who was their pastor. Like the women at the tomb, we too have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope, in order to show him once more the love that is undying. We want to do this with the same wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years. Together, we want to say: “Father, into your hands we commend his spirit”.”
Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”
The stamp, printed in Belgium, costs 1,25 € (around $1.36) and only 105,000 copies were produced.
An Office that captures time and history
The Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office issues a certain number of coins, medals, and stamps annually commemorating specific events or simply the passing year. These are then bought and sold by collectors across the world. With each object that is created, a certain time period or occurrence is represented and physically immortalized.
For example, in June 2022 the Office issued a silver medal dedicated to peace in Ukraine, whose proceeds from the sales would go to support those suffering from the war. The 50€ (around $54) medal featured a family fleeing from the conflict on one side and a dove and an olive branch on the other.
The Office even has its own dedicated section in the Vatican Museums which houses rare stamps, coins, and medals going as far back as the pontificate of Pope Pius IX (1846-1878). These date from before the Vatican City State formally came into existence, which was in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts.