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Let us suppose that a rich man — a very, very rich man, such as, for example, Jack Ma, who possesses a net worth of some $20 billion — makes a straightforward proposition to the Vatican.
Aware that Pope Francis speaks constantly about the plight of the poor, an inspired by the Morris West novel, Shoes of the Fisherman, which culminates in a decision by the pope of the day to sell all the Vatican’s treasures to avert a famine, Mr. Ma has decided to make an offer for one Vatican treasure in particular: the Pieta.
If Pope Francis will sell him the Pieta, Mr. Ma says, he will pay, let us say, $5 billion. That would be by far the highest amount ever paid for a work of art, Mr. Ma acknowledges, but the Pieta is perhaps one of the half dozen most magnificent pieces of art ever created — and, since he knows the money will go to the poor, Mr. Ma explains, he has no intention of quibbling.
In return for Michelangelo’s masterpiece, $5 billion that Pope Francis could use to relieve the sufferings of the poor.
Should the Pontiff accept the offer?