Amid downturn, Pope's $72M Spain trip under fire

Pope Benedict XVI delivers the Urbi and Orbi message and blessing to faithful after the Easter Holy Mass on April 24, 2011 at St Peter's square at The Vatican. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI delivers the Urbi and Orbi message and blessing to faithful after the Easter Holy Mass on April 24, 2011 at St Peter's square at The Vatican.
Getty Images

Unlike most people, every trip the Pope takes is a big event.

Security, giant projection screens, stages, sound systems, and accommodations for the thousands of pilgrims who want a glimpse of the leader of the Catholic Church are almost never already there in their entirety, making his visits very not cheap.

When Pope Benedict XVI visits Spain next week for World Youth Day festivities, the price tag to accommodate him and the event will be between $72 million and $86 million, according to Agence France Presse.

That price tag is too much, critics say, especially with Spain suffering massive public sector cuts and nearly 20 percent unemployment.

Organizers say 80 percent of the cost of the event will be financed by payments from the 1 million or so pilgrims expected to attend, with the rest coming from donations by companies and individuals, AFP reports.

Still, opposition to the event and its price tag has been very vocal, and is coming from both secular and religious groups.

An umbrella group - the Priest's Forum - argue that the costs and showmanship of the event cannot be justified in the age of austerity, The Guardian reports.

Evaristo Villar, a 68-year-old member of the group, told The Guardian: "The companies that are backing World Youth Day and the pope's visit leave much to be desired. 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."

Yago de la Cierva, the executive director of World Youth Day 2011, told The Guardian that they are trying to be economically responsible, but "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."

The World Youth Day celebrations began under Pope John Paul II in 1986 as a way to revitalize the faith among young Catholics, AFP reports. It was in Spain once before, in 1989.

  • Joshua Norman

    Joshua Norman is a Senior Editor at CBSNews.com.

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