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Pope's visit to Britain in disarray as costs spiral to £14m

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Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Britain is in disarray as the costs spiral and doubts increase over the schedule.

The part of the bill that must be paid by the Roman Catholic church is now being put at as much as £14million, twice the earlier estimate, which could lead to events being scaled down or even cancelled.

Meanwhile the new Government has not yet appointed a minister to co-ordinate the trip – the first ever papal state visit to the country – while a new team of civil servants had to be assembled following the outrage over a leaked memo suggesting that the Pope launch a range of condoms or open an abortion clinic.

Preparations have also been affected by the ill-health of Benedict’s ambassador to Britain, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, who suffered a stroke last month.

One senior figure who attended a meeting of the church’s organising committee was heard to say of the visit: “It’s like buying a ticket for the Titanic.”
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[UPDATE 4-June] - article from

The papal visit is in jeopardy

Damian Thompson reveals the turmoil behind the scenes in the preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s keenly awaited visit to Britain — and how the trip has been hijacked by a Blairite cadre

Last week, the Catholic Arch-bishops of England and Wales were summoned to a private meeting in London where they were given astonishing news about Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain. The pontiff is due in four months’ time (16-19 September), yet preparations were going badly wrong. Some of the major venues, while announced, had still not been booked. And worse, the Church’s share of the cost of the four-day trip had veered wildly out of control, from £7 million to a figure nearer £14 million. They later concluded that the centrepiece — an open-air Mass at Coventry airport — was probably going to have to be cancelled. It was a disaster.

There were ‘gasps from the archbishops’, I’m told. This was the Mass at which the Pope would beatify John Henry Newman. The organiser of the visit, Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, outlined their backup plan: hold the Mass in St Mary’s College, Oscott, a sprawling, clumsily modernised neo-Gothic seminary near Sutton Coldfield that Benedict is scheduled to visit anyway. ‘We can blame the change of plan on the era of austerity’ was the proposed excuse.

Crucially, only 10,000 worshippers could be accommodated at Oscott. Coventry airport can take 200,000 — a figure which is actually much smaller than the number of people who want to attend the beatification of Newman. The archbishops at the meeting immediately grasped the implications of this. They had already collected money for the Coventry Mass — how would they explain that it had been cancelled?
... Continue reading



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