Spanish Catholic priests criticise corporate sponsorships for papal visit

By Reuters Staff
June 22, 2011

(Advertisements from an electricity company covers scaffolding at one end of the Bernini Colonnade, as a crowd listens to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican June 14, 2009/Chris Helgren)

A group of 120 Spanish Catholic priests have criticised church leaders for signing up a list of high-profile corporate sponsors for a visit by the Pope in August, saying authorities had given in to temptation. In a rare joint letter, the priests told Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela the sponsorship deals reinforced the impression the church was a privileged institution.

“It’s been necessary to form a pact with the economic and political powers which reinforces the image of the church as a privileged institution, close to power, and the social scandal this implies, especially in the context of the economic crisis,” the priests said in an open letter. Organisers of Pope Benedict’s visit, scheduled for August 18-21 as part of the celebrations of World Youth Day, have mounted a nationwide advertising campaign, backed by well-known multinationals and Spain’s top companies.

Corporate logos of the companies, including Coca Cola , Telefonica , Santander and Iberia , fill the sponsorship page of the official visit website www.madrid11.com/.

“To trust in the strength of power and money … is to give in to a temptation as old as the Church,” said the letter. “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and money,” the letter said, citing the passage from the Bible, Matthew 6:24.

Read the full story by Paul Day here.

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