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Pope Mass briefs are returned

Thousands of Scotland’s Catholics are returning tickets for the first papal visit in three decades to Church headquarters.

Parishes have failed to take up their full ticket allocation for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Glasgow next month.

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Sources say that in some  parishes, only one-sixth of  pilgrims have taken tickets and in many cases parishes are returning more than half of their allocations. Last night there were fears the uptake would fall short of the 100,000 pilgrims expected to turn out for the historic mass at Bellahouston Park. It is the latest twist in the build-up for the open-air mass on September 16. Just days ago it emerged some Catholics were being asked to pay to see Pope Benedict XVI in Glasgow, despite the Church insisting there would be no individual fees for the visit. Priests have cited various reasons for the low uptake, including costs, suitability of the venue and the lack of time they have been given to apply for tickets. With the deadline now passed, the Papal Visit office will today be counting how many returns they have received. Parishes are understood to be concerned about arrangements for the event, including the fact that worshippers will be required to stand in an open-air venue for hours in a Scottish autumn -- a probable far cry from the sun-soaked Mass at Bellahouston in 1982 by Pope John Paul II that was attended by 300,000. One east-coast community has ordered a large screen and plan to watch this year’s event on television in their church hall and if many more follow suit, numbers for the open-air mass may be well below expectations. Those opting out of going to Bellahouston are blaming the organisers. It is understood many parishes in the west coast have a lower-than-anticipated number of worshippers wanting to attend the event, which is expected to cost £1.5 million. Some parishes with a 400-ticket allocation have returned more than half. One source said: “It looks like the uptake for tickets is well below what was expected. There is a strong feeling among priests and the laity that the organisers have had no consideration for their wellbeing or safety while planning the Mass in the park. “Pilgrims are being asked to be in the park by 3pm at the latest for the Mass, which is due to start at 5.15pm and end at 7.30pm, when it will be almost dark. But during all this time the Pilgrims are expected to stand without any cover from the elements or seating facilities. “Most people will agree there is more chance of it being a wet windy night in September rather than a balmy autumn evening. “Booking such a venue is being looked on as being an irresponsible decision made by people dreaming of having a repeat of Bellahouston in June 1982.” Priests say the strict deadline for the ticket allocation has also affected uptake. The shortfall fears come just a week after Scots Catholics were told there was an expectation they would make a donation of £20 each to see the Pope in Glasgow, with the church insisting the cost was not an individual levy but a parish fee, and that anyone unable to pay would not have to. No-one from the Catholic Church was available for comment.  

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