Debate: Is it right to charge for papal Masses?

Pilgrims attending the three open-air Masses during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain will have to pay as much as £25 (US$39) for the privilege.

The Church insists that pilgrims are not being charged to attend the Masses themselves but to cover transport and other essential costs.

But the announcement has provoked furious reactions, particularly in Scotland. Even Hindus have criticised the decision, saying that no one should be charged to hear the word of God. Others have gone as far as to suggest that it is a form of simony.

Still others argue that charging is simply a necessary and prudent step if the Church is not to plunge into debt as it did after John Paul II’s visit in 1982.

So, is it right to charge for papal Masses?