Referring to current discussions in Bali on the conception of a post-Kyoto agreement on greenhouse emissions, Australia's new prime minister Kevin Rudd used a quaint Aussie metaphor: "It will be a negotiation, and negotiations involve horse-trading. People here know a bit about what horse-trading means."
Here in France, when negotiators get around to trading advantages and disadvantages in a laborious fashion, a common metaphor evokes Middle Eastern merchants selling carpets.
At the Vatican, the pope is selling neither Australian horses nor Persian carpets. As we all know, he deals in souls. And, in his soul-trading, the pope uses neither dollars nor euros. The papal currency bears an antiquated name: indulgences. The basic idea is that the sins of pious people can be pardoned, at least partly, by the pope. In the 16th century, you could even obtain an official papal receipt (hot off the newly-invented printing presses) stating the precise terms according to which a part of your debt due to sin has been canceled.
Pope Leo X [1475-1521] got around to selling indulgences to acquire finance to rebuild the basilica of St Peter. There was even a brilliant marketing slogan: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."
A strait-laced German monk named Martin Luther [1483-1546] was quite exasperated about this procedure, and the final outcome of his fury was the foundation of Protestantism... which seems to confirm that God moves in mysterious ways.
For the third time since he became pope, Benedict XV has just bestowed a so-called plenary (full) indulgence upon the faithful. This latest papal offer will benefit pilgrims visiting Lourdes during the next 12 months. Opening date = Dec 8, 2007. Closing date = Dec 8, 2008.
Always interested in the possibility of using the Internet to make money [which, sadly, has never been the case for me up until now], I seize this opportunity of announcing to pilgrims to Lourdes that, for the duration of this exceptional and highly attractive Vatican offer, I'm prepared to advertise and market their indulgences through my blog... or maybe, if the volume of trade were to become excessive, through a dedicated website [what a lovely adjective!] whose coordinates will be announced at a later date. My fees are amazingly low: a mere 15% of the sales value of the indulgence. And I promise to send each purchaser, for a small extra fee, a computer printout that illustrates—more eloquently than graphs or pie charts—the soundness of his/her investment: an ancient engraving revealing the horrors of eternal damnation in Hell.