The Vatican has come up with the ultimate in philanthropy for a selfish age - charity without giving.
Italians will be able to buy their daily bread in the reassuring knowledge that every time they do so, 100 lire (6 cents) per loaf will be set aside for the hungry poor of Africa.But neither the consumers, the bakers, nor anyone else if all goes well, will need to make a sacrifice of any kind.
The idea was unveiled this week at a press conference in the Vatican by officials of the Roman Catholic Church's main charitable organization, Cor Unum.
The centerpiece of the project, dubbed Panis Caritatis (Bread of Charity), is a round loaf made of 12 segments converging on a knob of bread in the middle.
Monsignor Paul Josef Cordes, the president of Cor Unum, said it "symbolized the 12 apostles gathered round Christ."
The loaf, made from a special mix, is the brainchild of a flour milling company, Lupi.
For the next 823 days, until the end of 2000, which the Vatican is to celebrate as a Jubilee, or Holy Year, Lupi is to make its mix available to bakers at a discount of 6 cents per loaf.
The bakers will sell it at the same price as any other 300-gram loaf and take their normal profit. But, since their costs will be 6 cents per loaf less, they will be able to make a painless contribution of the same amount to the Vatican.