Negotiations for Papal Mass at Australian racehorse track take a turn for the worse

Sydney, Australia, Aug 29, 2007 / 11:05 am (CNA) .- The dispute continues over whether the World Youth Day closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI will be held at Randwick racecourse.

The international Catholic youth event is expected to draw 500,000 youth and the racecourse is the only venue capable of accommodating such large numbers.

However, angry horse trainers say they’re staying put and the closing events for WYD should be held elsewhere.

The trainers argue that the event would cause great business losses in terms of lost training time and alternative accommodations for their horses.

A few months ago, they proposed that the Catholic Church provide them with compensation for the 10 weeks leading up to the event that WYD organizers said they would need to prepeare the racecourse for the Pope’s visit.

But trainers were angered when, instead of offering compensation, the local Church announced that the racecourse would be out of action for only three days. Training would be allowed to proceed while the preparations are underway. Trainers say this scenario puts their horses and business at risk, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

A meeting of racing industry representatives passed a resolution yesterday accusing the Church of acting in bad faith and restated their request that the papal Mass be held elsewhere.

Furthermore, said the president of the Randwick Trainers Association, Anthony Cummings, the outbreak of an exotic equine influenza strain had only hardened trainers' resolve to resist any eviction.

According to the Herald, trainers have given WYD organizers a Friday deadline to provide a plan for alternative accommodation for up to 700 horses and guarantees for next year's event.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said it was a matter for the local government to resolve as owner of the racetrack. Minister for Transport John Watkins told the Herald the government could not comment while negotiations are in process.