Church in England asking for solidarity, not 'fee' to attend papal events in the UK

Church in England asking for solidarity, not 'fee' to attend papal events in the UK

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI


Mgr. Andrew Summersgill, coordinator of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the United Kingdom, clarified on Sunday that pilgrims who will be attending any of the major open air events with the Holy Father will not be paying "a charge to go to Mass," but a contribution of solidarity to cover the cost for the transportation of pilgrims.

Pope Benedict's visit to the U.K., planned from September 16-19, will include three open-air public celebrations: the Mass in Bellahouston, the Vigil in Hyde Park and the Mass in Cofton Park.

Some interested in attending the events as well as the local media reacted negatively when the organizers of the Pope's visit announced that a contribution of roughly $40 and $32 per pilgrim would be requested towards covering Cofton Park and Bellahouston Park travel, respectively.

"It is a contribution, not, as I’ve been reading in some places, a charge for people to go to Mass," Mgr. Andrew Summersgill explained on Sunday.

"Its main purpose is to cover the cost of transportation, particularly to Cofton and to Bellahouston,” Msgr. Summersgill explained. He added that the money will also cover traffic management, and the “secured accreditation that is needed for people to get in."

The coordinator of the Pope's visit explained the difference by describing the established practice for World Youth Days.

"What happens at the World Youth Days is that everybody is invited to register online and part of that registration includes a contribution which is usually made by credit card or through groups. So it’s not totally dissimilar to the way these things work in other parts of the world," he said.

"The contribution," he explained "is being kept the same across the board and therefore it’s an act, if you like, of solidarity, so that anybody who is attending either the Beatification Mass or the Mass in Glasgow is making the same contribution no matter where they are coming from."

In fact, according to the organizers, in England and Wales, the contributions are collected through the dioceses and “it is up to each one to decide how they wish to collect the contributions from within their own dioceses.”

“The diocese itself may make the contribution,” Msgr. Summersgill added, “it may be passed to parishes, there may be fundraising groups within parishes and parishes may wish to support other people attending Papal events. It isn’t a direct contribution in that sense.”

Each pilgrim attending the open air events will receive a Pilgrim Pack (a drawstring bag) containing a “pilgrim passport, a commemorative CD and a 'How to keep in touch' postcard.”