John Paul II remembered in stamp exhibit

By 
  • April 6, 2011
Anthony Sales among the 160 frames of his Philatelic Tribute to Pope John Paul II (Photo by Deborah Gyapong)OTTAWA - Anthony Sales’ childhood passion for stamp collecting has become a “Philatelic Tribute to Pope John Paul II” that tells an astonishing story of the “pilgrim pope” in stamps from nations around the world.

“He was really loved,” said Sales, who lives in Richmond, B.C. “He was a man people were just attracted to.”

Sales brought his collection to Ottawa April 1-4, which straddled the sixth anniversary of John Paul’s death, and only a month before John Paul’s beatification in Rome May 2, a circumstance Sales described as “providential.”

The exhibit had originally been slated for last October, and was moved to April before the beatification was announced.

Sales described the late pope as “a man from Galilee” because when he spoke, Sales was reminded of accounts of St. Paul in Acts speaking to the people.

“John Paul is somebody who has to be known,” he said. “We have to be reminded of what he did.”

Mounted on 160 frames, the stamps tell the story of John Paul II’s life, his travels to so many countries around the globe, as well as important anniversaries and commemorations of his life, papacy and death.

The tribute is the crowning of a life-long passion. Sales began collecting stamps off the Christmas cards his family received back in Karachi, Pakistan, where he grew up. His mother couldn’t open his closet without a box full of stamps falling out.

From nativity scenes, he began collecting other Christmas themes such as bells, churches and mistletoe.

Sales began his John Paul collection in 1979 after a cardinal in Pakistan gave him two “covers” of the Pope. A cover is an envelope or postcard with stamps sent through the mail for collecting purposes.

Planning an exhibit is similar to planning a book, he said.

“You’ve got to have an index, contents, to build a story,” he said. “It was very easy to build a story on John Paul, I knew the story very well.”

As he built a five-frame exhibit, he thought it would be a “great tribute” to the Holy Father.

“My exhibit became an instant hit,” he said.

In 2007, Sales, a member of the Knights of Columbus, spoke with a friend who is a Grand Knight about doing a bigger exhibit to coincide with the 2007 celebration of the Knight’s 125th anniversary.

It took him 11 months of full time

work, on top of his day job as an accountant for a hotel chain, to put it together.

“People who came to it were floored,” he said.

“They didn’t expect something like this.”

A trip to Ottawa for personal reasons and a visit to St. Patrick’s Basilica prompted him to contact the local Knights and suggest bringing the exhibit here.

Sales and his wife Jennifer, who supported the 11-month labour of love in creating the exhibit, said they were delighted with how it worked out that the exhibit in Ottawa is a “curtain raiser for the beatification.”

“I am so glad and I would really like to take this exhibit to other places so people would have a chance to see it,” he said.

Donors helped cover the expenses: the Polish Embassy rented the frames, the Canadian Polish Congress paid for their transportation, the Knights raised money for advertising and produced a commemorative booklet explaining the philatelic tribute.

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