RELIGION

Holy Fraud: Italy seizes 3,500 fake 'Apostolic Blessings' in Holy Year crackdown in Rome

Pope Francis delives his speech during an audience with members of the "Policoro Group" a catholic association created by Italian Episcopal Conference to promote youth employment, at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis delives his speech during an audience with members of the "Policoro Group" a catholic association created by Italian Episcopal Conference to promote youth employment, at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

Police say they have seized 3,500 fake Vatican parchments that were being sold to unsuspecting pilgrims taking part in Pope Francis' Holy Year celebrations.

Rome's financial police said Monday they seized the parchments, valued at about 70,000 euros, at a souvenir shop near St. Peter's Basilica, where heightened police patrols have been deployed to protect pilgrims taking part in the yearlong Jubilee celebrations.

The parchments were knock-offs of the calligraphy-filled, personalized Apostolic Blessing parchments that are sold inside the Vatican by Francis' chief alms-giver to fund the pope's charitable efforts. The parchments are valued keepsakes, commemorating births, marriages and in this case, Holy Year pilgrimages.

The Vatican used to outsource the parchments to craftsmen around town but earlier this year cancelled the work to keep all proceeds in-house.