Church struggling to find funds for Pope's upcoming visit

By staff writers
August 16, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain in September 2010 is being threatened by low giving from Catholic parishes and rows over ethics and public money.

The cost of the state visit functions has risen from £12 million to £20 million over the past two months, and there is a £3 million hole in covering the costs of the pastoral and spiritual dimension of the pontiff's visit - which has also been mired in controversy over child abuse scandals and opposition to Vatican teaching against contraception and homosexuality, as well as its rejection of women as priests.

Attempts to raise money to meet the costs of the four-day visit have fallen far short, with church-goers snubbing attempts to have them pay to see the Pope, according to the Herald newspaper in Scotland.

So far, it is thought just £5.1 million has been raised, the vast majority from private and corporate donors, with only £1.1 million coming from local churches.

The millions being used to subsidise the state visit function have also been attacked by those who say that this is an inappropriate use of public money when cuts are being made to provision for the most vulnerable in society.

There are additional concerns among domestic visit organisers that the cost of attending open-air events like the one in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow on 16 September, has been putting parishioners off, with the charges of as much as £25 each to attend proving too much, in spite of assurances from church leaders that no one will be forced to pay if they cannot afford it.

Senior Catholic affairs commentator Clifford Longley says in The Tablet newspaper: "I wouldn't want to say that the reaction has been lukewarm but it certainly hasn't been red hot. I noticed in my own parish that they still have tickets available for the Hyde Park vigil and the Newman beatification. We're not in a situation where people are queuing around the block for tickets."

However, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland said it was too early to say how popular the event would be, declaring: "There are more than 500 parishes in Scotland and only 20 per cent have come back to us so far with their figures."

Meanwhile, in London, the first public meeting of a 'Protest the Pope' movement took place over the weekend. It called on the UK government to criticise and distance itself from Pope Benedict's utterances and actions.

However, the coalition is being seen as dominated by non- or anti-religious secularists, and has failed to attract a significant swathe of Catholics and other Christians who are critical of the pontiff, but want to use the visit to promote debate rather than antagonism.


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