Faithful to pay to attend pope events in Britain: church
Worshippers will be asked to pay a "pilgrim contribution" of up to 25 pounds to attend Pope Benedict XVI's public appearances during his trip to Britain, the Catholic Church said Wednesday.
The disclosure came amid controversy in mainly Anglican Britain over the cost of the September trip, which officials have estimated at up to 12 million pounds (14 million euros, 18 million dollars).
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said that dioceses which the pope would visit were being asked to "contribute a fixed amount towards the cost of the coaches which will transport pilgrims".
"Many have decided to ask for a pilgrim contribution," added the conference in a statement.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi stressed that "those that cannot afford it will be exempt", in comments to Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
The most expensive event, at 25 pounds a head, will be a mass in Birmingham on September 19 which is expected to attract 70,000 people, said the statement from the bishops' conference.
During the ceremony the pope will beatify theologian John Henry Newman, a Protestant who converted to Catholicism and died in 1890.
The September 16 mass in Glasgow, Scotland, will cost 20 pounds and includes a performance by Susan Boyle, the singing sensation who won international fame after performing on the television show "Britain's Got Talent".
The cheapest event will be a vigil in Hyde Park in London on September 17, with tickets selling at five pounds.
Worshippers attending the events will receive a so-called "pilgrim pack". This is a drawstring bag which contains a range of items including a commemorative CD and a "how to keep in touch" postcard, said the Church.
Benedict XVI will be only the second pope to visit Britain since King Henry VIII split with Rome in 1534, leading to the formation of the Anglican Church.
Pope John Paul II visited Britain, where over four million of some 61 million inhabitants are Catholic, in 1982.
© 2010 AFP