About 40,000 New York residents on Thursday learned that they had won two tickets in a city-sponsored lottery to watch Pope Francis’ procession through Central Park on Sept. 25.
A day later, many of them had been moved by the spirit of capitalism to offer those tickets on eBay and Craigslist, in some cases asking hundreds of US dollars each.
New Yorkers are not the only Americans eager to see the pope or make a quick dollar off his visit. However, New York is the only stop on the pope’s tour that does not offer the public a chance to see him without a ticket.
To watch his motorcade through Central Park and attend a Mass he plans to celebrate in Madison Square Garden later that day requires tickets, creating a potentially lucrative market for one of the city’s unofficial patron saints, the hustler.
Tickets to the Central Park procession have been offered on eBay for between US$200 and US$400.
The mayor’s office vowed to crack down on online scalpers, and officials said eBay and Craigslist had been quick to remove the advertisements at the city’s request.
“The city, along with the United States Secret Service, are monitoring ticket sales sites to remove tickets that are for sale,” said Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Tickets to the Mass in Madison Square Garden are being distributed by individual parishes and have not appeared for sale on the Internet, but tickets to the pope’s Mass at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia are being offered online to the highest bidder.
“Join Pope Francis as he celebrates the closing of the World Meeting of Families,” wrote one seller on Craigslist, who offered two tickets for US$5,000. “This is the closing Mass with the Pope!”
Another seller listed passes to the Mass in Philadelphia for US$250, and even offered to throw in rosary beads.
Roman Catholic Church officials have been predictably unhappy that some are seeking to capitalize off the chance to glimpse the pope.
“Papal tickets are never intended to be sold,” the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a statement, adding that it had asked eBay and Craigslist to remove the advertisements. “Scalping of tickets to papal events is shameful and reprehensible.”
Nevertheless, advertisements hawking tickets to both the Central Park procession and to events in Philadelphia continued to appear on Friday night, even as earlier listings were removed.
Some scalpers even worked the official crackdown into their sales pitches.
“Update: grab your tickets now, eBay is not allowing them to be listed and Craigslist will probably follow suit!” wrote one Craigslist seller in Rockland County, New York, offering tickets to the Central Park event for US$400 on Friday. “Google it.”
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