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Vatican spokesman: stringent security means pilgrims must pay to attend papal events

Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Vatican spokesman (Photo: PA)

The Vatican’s spokesman has denied that the Church had imposed the charges on tickets to papal events during Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain in September.

Speaking in an interview with Vatican Radio, Fr Federico Lombardi said it was “absolutely wrong” to “speak about the Vatican demanding paid tickets to attend Mass”.

He said: “It is not the Pope who single-handedly organises a trip to England. So, first thing: the Vatican did not establish any rules in this regard. These are organisational methods dealt with on the spot by the local Church, but taking into account all the many organisational constraints imposed by civil authority.”

Papal events in Britain are unusual, Fr Lombardi said, because “people cannot move freely on foot to where the three major public events will be taking place: they must use arranged transportation and all the seats must be allocated to an extremely precise number”.

He said the unusual constraints were “dictated by the security needs of civil authorities”.

“Thus,” he said, “the Church authorities themselves had to organise groups of faithful who could travel on arranged transportation, thereby giving them a ‘pass’, a special passport for all the faithful who are to take part and this is delivered along with a small ‘kit’ – that is both pastoral and logistical – and so a small contribution has been asked from every group that is organising itself to attend this event.”

Therefore, Fr Lombardi said, the pass was in fact not a ticket “paid by the individual to go to Mass”.

He also stressed that restrictions on the media and on journalists were more demanding than they had been on other trips, but these did not depend on the Vatican or the local Church.

Pilgrims attending Cofton Park have been required to make a contribution of £25 while the cost to attend the vigil at Hyde Park was decreased to £5 after it emerged that many of the pilgrims attending would not require travel cards.