Archbishop Nichols addresses cost, opportunities of Pope's UK visit

7 06 2010 Nichols 3 Archbishop Vincent Nichols talks about Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to the U.K. | Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

As details for the upcoming Papal visit to the United Kingdom continue to be announced, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster recently discussed some of the opportunities that will be available for the people of England to follow the Pope on his trip.

The British prelate also addressed the cost of the September 16-19 visit, which has been the subject of recent media criticism.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Nichols, current president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, explained that preparations are being made to offer ample opportunity for the faithful to participate in the Holy Father's visit to the country.

“There are three large outdoor events, and in an age of safety regulations, security problems, making sure that nothing can possibly go wrong, three major outdoor events in three different locations in three days is a real challenge,” the archbishop said.

“Then there will be drives that the Pope will make in the Popemobile through the centers of the cities, and that will give a lot more people the chance to come out and to greet him and to show him their support,” he continued.

“Then we will have full live coverage on our website and we are also producing a booklet with all of the liturgies that will the Pope will preside at, so that people whether they are sitting in front of their televisions or in front of giant screens in their parish community centers can pray together with the Pope, following him word for word, while he is here.”

Access to papal events will not be limited to Catholics, said Archbishop Nichols. But non-Catholics wishing to attend must go through their local Catholic parish, he explained. For security reasons, pilgrims must travel to the events in groups.

In coming days, parishes across England and Wales will be told how to apply for invitations to papal events in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, Hyde Park in London, and Cofton Park near Birmingham.

At a recent press conference, Lord Patten of Barnes, Government co-ordinator for the papal visit, expressed support for the upcoming trip.

Lord Patten said that the Government is determined to make the Pope's trip a success “not only out of respect for the Pope, not only out of determination to enhance the reputation of the United Kingdom, but because this will be an event followed by millions of people around the world,” reported Catholic Herald, a U.K. newspaper.

According to Lord Patten, the Government will pay £10 to £12 million for the state aspects of the visit, not including policing costs. While this is greater than the original £8 million, it covers the four-day span of the Pope's visit and is still far short of the £90 million that the state paid for just one day of the G20 conference in London last year.

Amid recent criticism from various media outlets over the costs associated with the trip, Archbishop Nichols told Vatican Radio that from Lord Patten's statements, “it is perfectly clear that the British Government is very supportive of this visit, totally committed to its success and ready to meet its share of the costs.”

“The Catholic community is likewise totally committed to this visit,” he continued. “It is a state visit, every aspect of it is part of a state visit, but the Catholic community will willingly and readily support those aspects of the visit which are quite explicitly an expression of Catholic faith. So the liturgies, the moments of prayer, those aspects of the visit will be entirely funded by the Catholic community.”

The archbishop said that the Church has raised almost £5 million, including £1.1 million through the special collection at Pentecost, said the Catholic Herald.

Noting that “this visit costs probably about half of that one day G20 summit,” Archbishop Nichols explained that “in terms of Britain’s standing in the world, in terms of the UK’s presence on the world stage the cost of this visit are not considerable at all.”

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