Spanish priests join opposition to cost of Pope’s visit for WYD2011

Priests from Madrid’s poorest parishes are criticising the cost of Pope Benedict’s visit to Madrid for World Youth Day, (WYD2011.)

“The Priests’ Forum” estimates the cost of the visit, not counting security, to be around NZ$105 million, and says the visit cannot be justified at a time of massive public cuts and 20% unemployment in Spain.

To cover the cost, more than 100 corporate sponsors are associating themselves with WYD2011.

“The companies that are backing World Youth Day and the pope’s visit leave much to be desired,” 68 year-old Fr Evaristo Villar said.

“They are the ones who, together with international capital, have caused the crisis. We are not against the pope’s visit, we are against the way it is being staged.”

“Catholics can go wherever they like in Madrid but the freedom of movement of the rest of us is restricted,” said Francisco Delgado, leader of Europa Laica, on discovering that the city had prohibited his group’s proposed march.

Opponents of the visit, such as “Secular Europe” who are against the pope’s visit, have set up a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the “papal” sponsors.

Other such as Europa Laica plans to march under the slogans “Not a penny of my taxes for the pope” and “For a secular state”.

There is particular ire that the some 500,000 pilgrims expected in the city will get free transport. Madrid metro fares rose by 50% on Monday.

“With the economic crisis we are going through, we can’t pay for this. The church should set the example,” said a spokesman for the Indignados movement, which has staged high-profile protests in central Madrid. “They propose to spend €60m (NZ$105M) when the regional government has just cut €40m (NZ$70m) from the education budget.”

The executive director of World Youth Day 2011, Yago de la Cierva, said: “We have made a huge effort to be moderate and economically responsible. The new generations – young people today – they like big events and the Church uses all the tools that exist to present the message of Jesus Christ.”

WYD2011 organisers say 80% of the event’s cost will be financed by the young pilgrims and head of Madrid’s Housing and Economy Office, Percival Manglano confirmed recently that WYD2011 is expected to bring NZ$175 million into the Spanish economy.

Papal Nuncio to Spain, Archbishop Renzo Fratini told Vatican Radio that WYD2011 will transcend Spain’s economic woes.

“Spain is waiting for the Holy Father with great desire and hope that he will also assist a recovery on a spiritual level. There’s a great expectation and the whole city is abuzz,” the Nuncio said.

Spain’s interest in the Catholic faith, a traditionally Catholic country, has fallen in the past 10 years. A recent survey by the national statistics office showed that the number of believers aged 18 to 24 has fallen by 56%.


News category: World.

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