Pope UK visit costs soar, London concerned about protests, Paisley sees “mistake”
Pope Benedict isn’t visiting Britain until September, but his trip is already making headlines there. Here are our latest reports:
Campaigners planning to stage demonstrations during Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain should show restraint, the prime minister’s special representative for the papal visit, Chris Patten, said on Monday.
(Photo: Chris Patten in London, July 5, 2010/Peter Macdiarmid)
Various protests are expected during the first papal state visit to the country in September, including by secularists, gay rights groups and those angry at the child-abuse scandal which has spread throughout the Roman Catholic church globally.
But Patten, a former Conservative minister and governor of Hong Kong, who was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to help coordinate the four-day visit, said demonstrators should be free to express their opinions, but should not fall into the trap of intolerance. “I hope that (the protests) will be done with restraint, and that it will be done with a show of tolerance,” he told Reuters.
British author and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins has said he will try to have Pope Benedict arrested to face questions over cases of sexual abuse of children by priests. Gay activists are planning protests against the church’s attitude on homosexuality, while secularists intend to complain at the cost of the visit to the British taxpayer.
The cost to the taxpayer of staging the first state papal visit to Britain is set to rise by up to 50 percent, the government said on Monday, at a time when severe cuts are set to be imposed to tackle a budget deficit.
(Photo: Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols in London, July 5, 2010/Peter Macdiarmid)
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, said Pope Benedict’s visit in September would offer iconic moments including “standing side-by-side” with Queen Elizabeth, supreme governor of the Church of England.
But the cost is set to rise to 10-12 million pounds, up from an initial estimate of about 8 million pounds, the Prime Minister’s special representative for the Papal visit, Chris Patten, told reporters.
The Roman Catholic Church’s contribution is also expected to rise from its original estimate of about 7 million pounds. It has raised about 5 million pounds so far, largely from its 5 million worshippers and private donors. Security costs, including policing, have yet to be revealed.
Protestant preacher Ian Paisley said on Friday it was a mistake to have invited Pope Benedict to Britain and criticised the Catholic Church’s response to the child sex abuse scandal.
(Photo: Ian Paisley in Ballymena, March 8, 2010/Cathal McNaughton)
The preacher, who stepped down from the post of Northern Ireland first minister in 2008, said the pope should not have been invited for the four-day visit in September during which he will meet the queen at her official residence in Scotland. It will be the first official papal visit to the country.
“I think it is a mistake,” Paisley said, when asked what he thought of the visit. “I think he should not be invited to the country.”
Paisley also criticised the Catholic Church’s handling of the child abuse scandal in Ireland, accusing it of having failed to “take a strong stand.”
“I believe that any man that destroys a child’s life, as we have seen scores of young people in this day and generation — and then the church having to wait until it is uncovered — is an absolute disgrace.”