The Bishops of England and Wales have promised to operate within the original £7million budget planned for the papal visit, despite reports of soaring costs.
Speaking at the launch of the new pamphlet explaining the purpose of the papal visit, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that it was the intention of the bishops to remain within the budget. Last week it was reported that projected costs had doubled from the original figure of £7 million to £14 million. But Archbishop Nichols, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said everything was not yet clear.
He said: “What is clear is that the Catholic community carries the cost of those things which are proper to it, of the manifestations of Catholic faith that are part of this state visit. What is equally clear is that the Government funds a state visit in its movement and its security.
“We are intending and hoping to fulfil our side of those obligations within the budget that we have already established. There are still things to be made clear but that process is moving forward very well and very quickly since there is somebody in place with whom we can have decisive discussions.
“It is our intention to operate within that but there are still things to be clarified and decided and that will in part involve the group coming from Rome. You’ll have an answer after that.”
Archbishop Nichols also said that the Church’s plans continued to involve Coventry Airport for the John Henry Newman’s beatification despite reports said that the venue had not been booked. The news reports said that there were plans to host the ceremony in Oscott seminary or at the Longbridge car plant instead. But he also said that the Church’s plans would be looked at in the coming week when a papal visit protocol team would come to England and Wales to discuss the visit in logistical detail and that there would be a clear answer by the end of next week.
He also said that the open-air vigil for Hyde Park would go ahead and that he was puzzled by reports in the press that the venue had not even been booked by the event.
“We’re planning to have a vigil on the Saturday in Hyde Park and permission and everything has been given,” he said.
The booklet about the papal visit – which featured the papal visit logo, based on a stained-glass window design by the artist Brian Clarke on its front cover – confirmed both details that the beatification of Newman would take place in Coventry Airport and that the Church had set itself a budget of £ 7million for the visit. It also gave answers to some potential questions about the visit.
The 300,000 booklets have been booklets printed for distribution in the media on a local and national level, for organisers, diplomats, people in Government, in local authorities and parishes.
When asked whether the papal visit pamphlet had been published in response to the Foreign Office memo which suggested that the Pope open an abortion ward during his September visit, Archbishop Nichols said it was already being prepared when the memo was leaked to the press. But he said, he hoped it would be distributed in the Foreign Office as well.
The papal visit coming in response to the Queen’s invitation in May, Archbishop Nichols said, was a significant moment for the country.
He said: “The project of the Pope in coming to Britain at the invitation of the Queen is to address our society and obviously to beatify Cardinal Newman of whom he is very fond.”
He said the visit worked “on the level of a state visit” and that most people did not see heads of state when they visited. Benedict’s visit was different, he said, because the Pope would be visisble when driving around in the Popemobile.