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Pope's visit: £10-12m cost to taxpayer

By Penny Ayres, Channel 4 News

Updated on 05 July 2010

With reports saying the Pope's UK visit could cost taxpayers £12m, the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales tells Channel 4 News the abuse scandal will be on the agenda.

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK will cost the taxpayer at least £10m. (Credit: Reuters)

The total cost of the visit will be divided between the state and the Catholic Church, but Lord Patten said the previous estimates that the visit would cost £15m "underestimated the complexity and sophistication" of such as visit.

"We now reckon that on the government side that we will have to make a larger commitment even though we have driven down the costs of some elements of the visit," Lord Patten said during a briefing at the Foreign Office.


"We reckon now that the costs, apart from policing, will be somewhere between £10 and £12 million, rather than the £8m or so that we were previously calculating."

He added that the cost of policing the visit would depend on the turnout at events.

Lord Patten and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, insist the Catholic Church will pick up the cost of the pastoral side of the visit.

The four-day visit is the first State visit by the head of the Catholic Church. In 1982 Pope John Paul II made a purely pastoral visit to the UK.

More on the Pope's visit and the child abuse scandal
- Pope hit by new church abuse claims
- Pope pledges not to be 'intimidated'
- Pope apologises for Irish sexual abuse
- Abuse scandal - where does blame lie?

Lord Patten insisted that, although the invitation for Pope Benedict to visit the UK was given by the previous Labour government, the current government still considered it an "honour" to host the visit, saying that despite the economic situation, he was sure the cost would not have been a consideration when extending the invitation.

"I think this country has to learn to live within its means... it does not mean that state visits and manifestations of the generosity of the state have to be distant memories," he said.

"This is not a return to the Middle Ages."

However, he added that the church would have to raise more money for the visit as well. Archbishop Nichols estimated the church had already raised £5m.

Pope Benedict will arrive in the UK on 16 September, flying into Edinburgh where he will be met by the Queen at Holyrood House. He will then travel on to Glasgow before arriving in London on 17 September, where he will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth palace and the two will pray together at Westminster Abbey.

He will conclude the visit by travelling to Birmingham on the Sunday, where there will be a mass of Beatification of Cardinal Newman, the penultimate step before papal recognition of sainthood.


Child abuse scandal
Archbishop Nichols said that he had travelled to the Vatican to talk with the Pope about the visit.

He said the Pope was "really profoundly looking forward to these few days" and was "very aware of the magnitude" of the events planned during the visit.

But he said he did not think the church would "spend the time fire-fighting" in the wake of the child abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church across the world.

He told Channel 4 News that he did not raise the issue with the Pope himself, but said: "I am quite sure that this is among those issues that (the Pope's advisors) will be considering carefully."

He also insisted that if the Pope met with victims of the abuse during the visit, the meeting would be held in private and not under media pressure.

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