Pope raffling off unwanted gifts to help homeless - racing bikes, Fiat car, coffee machine among items up for grabs

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on November 19, 2014 at the Vatican. Pope Francis is raffling off unwanted gifts including a Fiat Panda, tandem bike and coffee machine to raise money for the h
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on November 19, 2014 at the Vatican. Pope Francis is raffling off unwanted gifts including a Fiat Panda, tandem bike and coffee machine to raise money for the homeless. -- PHOTO: AFP

ROME (AFP) - 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 (S$16), 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 Jan 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 honour 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 and inscribed with his name - for €241,500 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.

Archbishop 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.