Ticket sales slow for pope's big event in Britain
The Catholic church is having trouble selling tickets for an open-air mass celebrating John Henry Newman, the key event of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain this week, a spokesman admitted Monday.
"It is still not as many as expected, although it's pretty full," said Jack Valero, who is coordinating the beatification of the 19th century English cardinal on Sunday in Birmingham, central England.
There has been speculation that the decision to charge to attend public events on the visit -- a "pilgrim pack" costing up to 25 pounds (30 euros, 39 dollars) is required for entry, to cover security and transport costs -- was a deterrent.
But Valero told AFP people were put off because the mass -- the culmination of the pope's visit -- starts at 10:00 am and anyone attending has to be at the venue several hours before for security reasons.
"The problem is that everybody has to be there very early so for most people around the country, they have to leave (home) at 2:00 am or 3:00 am, so it has put some people off," he said.
He said he still expected 50,000 people to attend the 60,000-capacity event.
By contrast, the other two public events organised for the papal visit, a mass in Glasgow on Thursday and a prayer vigil in London's Hyde Park, are taking place in the afternoon or evening.
A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales insisted these two events were full.
"In Hyde Park, there will be between 70,000 and 80,000 people, it will be at capacity," he told AFP, while "for Glasgow, we're looking at between 70,000 to 80,000 at the moment".
The spokesman also insisted that while the venue in Birmingham had capacity for 60,000 people, the organised coaches taking people there only carried 52,000 people -- "so we're round about at capacity there".
© 2010 AFP