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Pope to raffle off gifts to raise money for homeless

Vatican City: 

Pope Francis is raffling off unwanted gifts including a Fiat Panda, tandem bike and coffee machine to raise money for the homeless.

For just 10 euros (about US$12.50) those hoping to get their clutches on perfume, pens and even a panama hat given to the pope can enter a draw, the proceeds of which will go to a papal charity set up to help those who bed down nightly around the Vatican.

Tickets are to be sold throughout the upcoming festive season and signs have already gone up around the tiny city state advertising the draw, which will take place on January 8.

While the first prize is a gleaming Fiat Panda 4X4 in papal white, runners up could go home with racing bicycles, an HD digital video camera, a gentleman's wrist watch, an umbrella or bottle of perfume — all of which will have much higher-than-usual value because of where they come from.

The Argentine pope — who chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi and his devotion to the poor — has cast off luxuries such as the ermine-trimmed cape and red shoes worn by his predecessor Benedict XVI and focused his efforts on helping the down-and-out.

He is also unlikely to have room to keep the hundreds of presents bestowed on him in his modest apartment, having opted out of moving into the spacious papal palace after his election last year.

In February the 77-year-old pope sold off his Harley Davidson — worth around 15,000 euros and inscribed with his name — for 241,500 euros at a Paris auction, giving the proceeds to a hostel and soup kitchen in Rome.

He also appointed a papal almoner, Polish archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who helps those who regularly sleep rough among the porticos near Saint Peter's Square, or poor families struggling to pay their bills.

Krajewski announced last week that the Vatican would be installing showers for the homeless at public toilets just off St Peter's square. The initiative followed an encounter with a homeless man who declined an invitation to dinner because he said he was too smelly to dine with a bishop.

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