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Pope's jewels to be sold on eBay

A lavishly-jewelled cross and a ring once owned by Pope Paul VI are heading to auction on eBay.

The items have turned up at a US store owned by a Southern Baptist with a flair for self-promotion.

It is the latest stop on a strange journey involving luminaries ranging from United Nations secretary general U Thant to Evel Knievel, and which began with Paul VI's novel decision to allow some of his jewellery to be sold to raise money for charity.

One of the items is a pectoral cross, given to clergy who attain the rank of bishop or higher to signify their office. The pope's donation was a testament to his willingness to engage the contemporary world by de-emphasising the importance of such regalia.

"This is new for me," said jewellery store owner Alan Perry, who thinks the items might fetch £490,000 to £552,000 at auction.

"That's why we're going to put it up on eBay. It's only worth what someone's willing to pay for it and eBay might be a good measure to see if people are interested."

Mr Perry was enlisted by a widow whose husband had bought the ring and cross in the 1970s. A New York firm had tried to sell the items for £766,000, but had not been able to find a buyer. After serving on the board of a local charity with Mr Perry, the woman asked if he would try his luck.

"She came in with all this paperwork and with the cross and ring, and I just said, 'Holy mackerel'," Mr Perry said.

It is not the first time that his store, Perry's Emporium, has made headlines. He appeared on ABC's Good Morning America after he vowed last year to refund the cost of jewellery bought over a two-week period in Asheville, a city in the North Carolina mountains if had three inches of snow on Christmas. It did, and he paid out about £245,000 that was covered by insurance.

He plans to put the cross and ring on public display starting on Thursday through Holy Week with an armed guard.

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