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Feathers, Boots, Bread and Salt among Gifts for Vatican Visitor

September 7, 1987

Undated (AP) _ An eagle feather, a bronze sculpture of praying hands and a pair of genuine Texas cowboy boots are among a raft of gifts which Pope John Paul II will receive during his visit to the United States.

″People don’t do this just out of goodness, it’s more reverence and affection for the person,″ said the Rev. John McMahon, coordinator of the papal visit to Phoenix, Ariz.

McMahon said no gifts would be accepted after Wednesday, five days before John Paul arrives there on the mid-point of his nine-city U.S. tour, which starts Thursday.

All gifts would be checked by the Secret Service, then sent by plane to the Vatican.

Parishioners from Hamtramck, Mich., a predominantly Polish suburb of Detroit, will present the pope with bread, ″a gift of God,″ and salt, ″a gift from the Earth,″ as a traditional Polish welcome, said the Rev. Ted Ozog, pastor of St. Florian Parish.

″They are cultural representations of something. Like giving the keys to the city,″ he said. ″It is a sign of welcome.″

A gift of red and white roses is also part of the tradition, he said.

In San Antonio, Texas, the pope will be presented with a pair of cowboy boots made by El Paso bootmaker Tony Lama Co., a company official said.

Each boot, custom made by Jesus Briano, who has been with the company for 20 years, will have the papal seal on the front.

An eagle feather, a Papago basket and a 6-foot staff carved from the rib of a saguaro cactus are among the gifts waiting in Phoenix.

The feather, the Native American symbol for justice and human rights, will be presented during the pope’s meeting with 16,000 Catholic Indians.

Dominic Pardo of Sun City has carved the cactus rib staff, inlaid with turquoise and intricately worked. A small plate carries the Italian inscription, ″made by me.″

In Miami, the Rev. Daniel Kubala said many gifts have been received, including lots of flowers.

Dr. Samuel Platnick gave a pair of sculptured hands with a crucifix in them. ″He did it because of his admiration for the Holy Father,″ said his wife, Elaine.

Elementary school students have been working on letters to the pope in New Orleans, where the gifts will also include Louisiana-grown cotton cloth and a portrait of the pope etched in crystal.

Leslie Medina, a native of the Dominican Republic, said that during the six months she worked on the crystal portrait, ″I felt that God was all around me.″

Another man spent long hours carving a likeness of the pope into a wood medallion.

Tony Quaglino, a Louisiana shipyard worker, has carved many faces in mahogany but a woodcarving of the pope’s likeness made him nervous.

″It was the first thing I’d done of a living person,″ he said. ″The other things I was doing were mostly Mardi Gras figures.″

After the gifts reach Rome, McMahon said, they will be appraised and put on display in the Vatican museum.

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