The Italian Almanac

Heaven bond

Heaven Bonds

An elderly priest near Venice has brushed off his creative financing skills to raise the cash to build a new retirement home. Feisty Father Armando Trevisiol, who turns 81 in March, is selling coupons dubbed 'Gospel' or 'Heaven' bonds for 50 euros to locals looking to get a cosy roof over their heads in their elder years - and perhaps even snag a place in the Hereafter.

The home, which will also serve as a community centre, is 1.5 million euros currently short of funds but was half a million further behind when Father Trevisiol hatched his latest scheme a month ago. "I didn't know what to do so it occurred to me to sell these shares for people to take to St Peter at the Last Judgement and get him to open the gates of Heaven," the cleric quipped. Holders of the paper will benefit from any rise in the real estate value of the complex, have a say in the way the center is run and be given 'preferred treatment' in obtaining lodging for themselves or their loved ones at the home, he explained. Heavenly powers should also regard them as "privileged options," Trevisiol observed.

The scheme has already raised some 15,000 euros through the bonds while private donors - including "a young gentleman" who chipped in with 75,000 euros - have raised the income so far to half a million. It will take a while yet before the two-million target is reached but Father Trevisiol says he has faith in his flock. "My own wealth is the confidence I have in my fellow citizens," he said.

The new facility at Campalto, a small village outside Mestre on the mainland across from Venice, will be the fourth the priest has built in recent years. Each time he has used slightly unorthodox means to raise the cash: selling off recently restored star-like decorations on his church in the town of Carpenedo; auctioning memorial stones carved with benefactors' names; and even pawning the furniture in his rectory.