08 November 2018, The Tablet

Bishops ask parishes to cover papal visit deficit of 4m euros

Parishes across Ireland have been asked to hold a fifth national collection this weekend in a bid to cover the €4 million deficit outstanding on August’s papal visit and the World Meeting of Families (WMF). The overall cost, to Church and state, of the 32-hour visit of Pope Francis is estimated at €32 million, including substantial security costs.

The visit to Dublin, Knock and the hosting of the WMF cost the Church €19.4 million. So far, €15.4 million has been raised through four national parish collections, corporate sponsorship and donations. Previous national collections in 2016 and 2017 generated €5 million, and it is hoped the remaining €4 million can be secured through this weekend’s collection.

Responding to criticism that Mass-goers were once again being asked to step up to the plate, Bishop Kevin Doran highlighted that tickets for all papal events in August were free. The Bishop of Elphin also suggested that if every adult Catholic in Ireland gave the price of a cappuccino, or if every Catholic family gave the price of a pizza, it would go a huge way to defraying the outstanding bill.

“We have to pay our debts and that means ultimately each diocese in Ireland will have to cough up out of reserves,” he said. The bishop noted that ticket prices for the Rolling Stones concert last May, ahead of the papal visit, ranged from €90 to €750 each.

Notes from a debriefing held by the Department of the Taoiseach on the papal visit claim that appalling weather and RTÉ’s “comprehensive coverage” were blamed for the poor turnout at the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday 26 August.

As many as 500,000 people were expected to attend the Mass, billed as the centrepiece of Pope Francis’ visit. Attendance is estimated to have been something over 150,000 as many stayed away amid torrential rain.

Separately, minister for children, Katherine Zappone, sought assurances from the Tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs, Simon Coveney, last February that no state funding would help finance the WMF, over concerns about the removal of references to LGBT Catholics and their families from WMF promotional materials. Ms Zappone’s letter to Mr Coveney was released by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which managed Pope Francis’ visit, under the Freedom of Information Act.

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