Scottish Catholics face new papal visit cash questions

By staff writers
July 26, 2010

The Catholic Church in Scotland is being questioned over plans to charge parishioners for the cost of going to see the Pope on his impending visit to Glasgow.

As part of his British trip, which combines a state visit with pastoral duties, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate a public mass for around 100,000 people at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow on 16 September 2010.

Those wanting to attend the mass will need a Pilgrim Pass with the church instituting a "suggested donation" of £20 per pass.

However, a Catholic Church spokesperson said no-one would be forced to pay and that the money would be spent on logistical arrangements such as transport.

It added that if parishes could not afford to pay, then ancillary fundraising could be used to cover the costs - though it seems that this would be down to local effort and may prove difficult in poorer communities.

The argument is the latest in a whole series of rows about who should pay for the visit - with protests about the £12-20 million likely cost to the taxpayer of the pontiff's formal functions.

Rome and Catholic communities across Britain are making contributions, but government papal visit spokesperson Chris Patten, former governor of Hong Kong and a practicing Catholic himself, has been unable to say what the total cost will be or exactly how it will be borne.

Around half the total number of Catholics who attend mass each week in Scotland are expected in Glasgow, with places also being allocated to worshippers from the north of England and from Northern Ireland.

The Pilgrim Pass includes a pack with information about the visit and a CD.

Scottish Catholic spokesperson Peter Kearney told the BBC and other news agencies: "We have negotiated with bus companies to make sure that people can travel on designated buses from every single part of the country. All people are being asked to do is make a contribution through their parishes to cover those obvious and real expenses."

However, some parishioners and attenders, who have already made voluntary donations, feel that they are being charged 'by the back door', and say that as a very rich institution the Vatican should be doing more to cover the costs of the papal visit.


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