Pope visit costs criticized in austerity-hit Spain
Cost to the taxpayer seems to be the latest target for protesters when Pope Benedict comes to town. After a lively debate about the price the public had to pay for his visit to Britain in September, Spanish protesters have picked up the torch with complaints about the estimated 3.7 million to 5 million euros the state will spend on logistics and security for the pope. And this at a time when Spain is burdened with 20 percent unemployment and is struggling to emerge from recession and austerity measures that have slashed public sector wages.
“I think it’s bad, I mean really bad, to spend so much money on a guy who comes, gives a speech, stays an hour and leaves,” said Pedro Barral Gonzalez, 18, in Santiago de Compostela, the city in northwestern Spain that the pope visited on Saturday.
Spending on papal visits is often controversial, and Spanish spending on the 32-hour visit is dwarfed by other recent trips, but it still drew criticism.
“Funding this liturgical event with public money, we believe it should be funded by the religion’s faithful,” said Jouffre Villanueva, head of the Secular and Progressive Movement.
Catalan newspaper El Periodico, based in Barcelona, where the pope was scheduled to visit on Sunday, said that the Barcelona Archbishopric had raised donations of 500,000 euros to fund the visit, over and above the state spending.