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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Taxpayer must not be forced into rescuing the papal visit

News of the spiralling cost of the Pope’s visit to Britain in September has alarmed secularists who are demanding that the Government does not use any more taxpayers’ money to rescue the event.

Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS, said: “The Church is supposed to be financing the pastoral elements of this visit, but these costs now appear to have doubled from the initial estimate of £7 million to over £14 million, according to Damian Thompson in Thursday’s Spectator.

“The taxpayer is already committed to spending an unspecified amount of money – likely to run into tens of millions of pounds – for the state element of the visit, not to mention the considerable costs of security which are not being revealed. Under no circumstances must the public purse now be made to cover the Church’s deficit, a deficit that has been incurred through arranging inflated events that they cannot afford to stage.”

Mr Sanderson said that the Government cannot, on the one hand, start making stringent cuts to services that many people depend on while at the same time pouring money into this event which is surrounded by controversy.

When the event was first announced, the NSS gathered a petition of 28,000 names protesting at the state funding of the Pope’s visit. Since then the Church said it would contribute £7 million to finance the religious elements of the visit, but now realises that this was a dire underestimate.

“We are not being told the truth about the real cost of this event,” said Terry Sanderson. “The taxpayer should not be put in the position of having to rescue the Church from its own profligacy. This event is not necessary, hospitals, schools and social services are.”

Earlier this year the National Secular Society delivered a 28,000 name petition to Downing Street calling on the Government not to fund the papal visit.

The Protest the Pope campaign is planning a series of protest events during the Pope’s visit

Published Thu, 03 Jun 2010