Criticism mounts of Pope's visit to Spain

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Criticism mounts of Pope's visit to Spain

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The Pope Benedict’s forthcoming visit to Madrid for a Roman Catholic youth festival has sparked mounting controversy over the cost.

Opponents, among them even some Spanish priests, argue that Spain should not be shelling out money for the trip when the country is in a dire economic mess.

A police trade union put the cost of extra security alone at 2.5 million euros.

One young Madrid resident said: “I don’t really care about the Pope’s visit to Spain. What seems wrong to me is that we have to pay for half of this visit, and that’s even worse now that the church is not like it was originally.”

Another specific grievance surrounding World Youth Day is that pilgrims get special discounts on public transport while locals are being charged the full rate.

Organisers deny the festival is a burden saying the event will generate as much for state coffers as it costs. And that, they say, will avoid any charge for taxpayers or the Spanish church. They insist they do not want to take money away from essential causes.

But opponents also claim that big corporate sponsors of the event will get 90 percent of their costs returned by the state in tax rebates.

One priest said that in a country where five million are unemployed there is no place for an event like this.