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V14 2011 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 36, August 28, 2011, Article 16

THE PRIEST AND THE UNLOVED COINS

Loren Gatch forwarded this article from the Italian Press, about the travails of small change in Europe. He writes: " Not unlike debates in the United States. It would also seem that the priest referenced in the article has forgotten the lesson of the Widow's Mite!" -Editor

At Atella, a municipality of 3,800 residents in the province of Potenza, it's the talk of the town. Last Sunday, Fr Domenico Traversi, the parish priest of the 14th-century church of Santa Maria ad Nives, said from the pulpit how frustrating it was to open a collection box and find handfuls of one and two-cent coins. "I throw them away", he is reported to have said. "No one uses them".

The story ended up on the pages of the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, along with reports that the nearest greengrocer had taken the advice to heart and rounded up all his prices. Now Fr Domenico is furious. He says his outburst has been misinterpreted and promises letters to clarify the situation but he also admits: "No, I don't throw the coins away. But I can't pay 3,000 for the new electrical equipment the diocese wants installed in one-cent coins".

The copper eurocents are one of Italy's many contradictions. No one uses them. When you get some in your change, they just weigh down your pockets, unless you pop them into the church collection box. Yet Italy is swamped with useless eurocents. Since 2002, the Italian mint has struck 6.7 billion coins in the three smallest denominations. There are 2.6 billion one-cent coins, 2.2 billion worth two cents and 1.9 billion five-cent coins. The huge face value of about 165 million represents about 45% of the euro coinage struck for the ministry of the economy.

The tiddlers have had a tough time from the start. On 22 January 2002, a few days before the new currency went into circulation, Giulio Tremonti, the economy minister in the second Berlusconi administration, announced: "Doing away with eurocents would undoubtedly be a popular move. We're thinking it over and we've discussed it in the European Union". At the time, economist Giacomo Vaciago predicted that the copper-clad steel coins would have a lifespan measurable in months yet here they still are, in our trouser pockets, handbags and collection boxes.

The first Italians to do away with small coins were the managers of the Senate catering facilities, who on 1 February 2002 opted to go one better than Mr Tremonti and immediately abolish the pointless European small change: cappuccinos were reduced from 67 cents to 65 and croissants fell from 46 to 45 while filled rolls leapt from 1.14 to 1.20.

To read the complete article, see: The Priest and the Unloved Coins (www.corriere.it/International/english/articoli/2011/08/24/
priest-and-unloved-coins.shtml)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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