New pope creates new demand for religious art, artifacts

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The naming of a new pope is creating new demand for religious art and artifacts.

The phones began ringing off the hook at Stemper's in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon -- after Pope Francis met the public. With nearly 80 Catholic parishes in Milwaukee County alone, pictures of the new pontiff are in high demand.

Dan Stemper and his family have operated their church supply company for more than a century. Stemper says it's common for every Catholic parish to have at least one picture of the current pope adorning a wall. Now the race is on to deliver on that demand.

"Within 24 to 48 hours it'll be available. They'll have a formal sitting, there'll be an official picture and one of our suppliers is ready to ship as soon as they have that image," said Stemper.

That means portraits of Pope Francis will likely start popping up in churches early next week.

In the meantime, Stemper says they're likely to see a different kind of bump in business.

"Depending upon what name he picks. With Benedict there were certain items that were popular. I'm sure with Francis, it's going to be items that relate to St. Francis," said Stemper.

He's talking about Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. He is the namesake of the new head of the Catholic Church. That means sales of St. Francis depictions are likely to jump as well.

"I'm sure that the Vatican worked very hard to make this happen before Easter because it's a really huge time of year for all, not only the Catholics but all the Christian denominations," said Stemper.

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