While organisers continued to deny that a suggested £20 donation for the Bellahouston appearance was a charge to go to Mass, it has been announced the charge for his prayer vigil in London’s Hyde Park has been cut to just £5 after complaints.
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Some 100,000 people are due at Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park on September 16 to see Pope Benedict XVI, and they are expected to pay the £20 donation to cover transport and the cost of a pilgrim pack with a CD and an information booklet.
However, 130,000 pilgrims going to London will only now pay £5 instead of £10 for their pilgrim pack admission.
Edinburgh City Council estimates the cost to it of hosting the Pope’s visit to the capital ahead of the Bellahouston Mass as up to £400,000.
The costs include traffic management, stewarding, papal banners, floral decorations and signs, and the authority has asked both Holyrood and Westminster to help it foot the bill.
A previous bid to reclaim £123,000 of costs relating to the opening of the Scottish Parliament by the Queen was rejected by the then Scottish Executive.
State visit co-ordinator for the Catholic Church, Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, said the decision was made to cut the suggested contribution for those going to Hyde Park “after listening to a lot of feedback” because many were going from the London area and already had travel passes.
“Many, many people have said to us that it’s something of a duplication and it would be better not to include a travel card. We would have difficulties if we had some pilgrim packs with a travel card and some without, so we thought it would be better to take out the travel cards and reduce the contribution to £5,” he said.
“Also, for families, it does mean that the outlay will potentially be a little bit lower, because the family travel cards would be cheaper, rather than, say, have a pilgrim travel contribution from four people.”
One would-be pilgrim who planned to go to Bellahouston but has been put off, said: “My husband and I would have to pay £40, which is a lot of money. I really do not understand why I have to pay so much more in Glasgow than those in London, where there will be a lot more people to deal with.
“It just does not seem very fair at all. It is supposed to be a donation, but I know and many others know that you won’t get in without a pilgrim pack and you only get one when you pay.”
Would-be pilgrims are being formally advised in notices that they must be attached to a group from a Catholic parish to attend one of the public celebrations and that the pilgrim pack effectively acts as a pass to enter the venues.
But Msr Summersgill insisted: “It is a contribution – not, as I’ve been reading in some places, a charge for people to go to Mass.
“Its main purpose is to cover the cost of transportation, particularly to Cofton Park in Birmingham and to Bellahouston, and for some of the costs around the traffic management that needs to take place when dealing with large numbers of people, not to mention some of the secured accreditation that is needed for people to get in.”
The cost of the four-day state visit to England and Scotland is estimated at about £20 million.
Members of the Catholic Church will have to cover £7m of the bill, while taxpayers will foot the rest.
It is estimated the Glasgow Mass will cost more than £1.5m to stage.
Concern has been focusing on the cost of crowd control at three big open-air events – at Bellahouston Park, Hyde Park and the celebration of the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Cofton Park.
Pope Benedict will also travel by Popemobile along Princes Street in Edinburgh after meeting the Queen in the city.