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Polish exhibition promotes latest clerical ‘must-haves’


Isothermal winter-wear cassocks for priests, and MP3 bell chimes were two of the items on display at SACROEXPO, a trade fair of church supplies in Poland, sponsored by Roman Catholic leaders and the Polish Ecumenical Council, which groups other denominations.

"This event, the largest in Europe, is a source of satisfaction and hope," Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Vatican’s Pontificial Council of Culture, said in a letter to organizers and exhibitors. "It points up important directions for artistic creativity, expressed in love for beauty and respect for religious values," Poupard added.

The Eighth International Exhibition of Church Construction, Church Fittings and Furnishings and Religious Art took place from 18 to 20 June in Kielce, 100 miles south of Warsaw. The event attracted 230 companies from 11 countries, who competed for orders for the latest chalices and sculptures, as well as for new look vestments and high-tech sound and lighting systems.

A spokeswoman for Pratulin, a Polish firm marketing isothermal cassocks, said this product, retailing at 300 euros (about US$400), was a must-have for priests who conduct services in unheated churches and outdoors during the winter.  "It’s expensive," said Bogumila Niewiadomska, "but once you buy one, it lasts a lifetime."

Horvat Elektronika, a Croatian firm that makes the MP3 carillon, said the device held 1500 electronic chimes recorded by professional ringers in the Netherlands and United States.  The company boasts that, at 8000 euros (just under US$11 000), the electronic appliance is cheaper than a regular set of bells.

Other items on display included low-energy-consuming thermal pews, which store heat from worshippers in winter while maintaining cool temperatures in summer, and keyboard-operated prayer and hymn boards.

In an opening speech, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the former private secretary of Pope John Paul II, said the Catholic Church welcomed new technical possibilities for proclaiming the gospel.  However, he also called for a "commercialised sacrality" that would "maintain the Holy Spirit."

SACROEXPO included lectures and discussions on the use of the Internet and mobile telephone technology for evangelism, as well as the awarding of design prizes at the Kielce technology park.  The park recently hosted Necro-Expo at which commercial exhibitors displayed coffins and gravestones for sale.

(c) Ecumenical News International