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Church must clear Government debt by April at latest

The Church in Britain must pay the Government back for its share of the papal visit costs by April next year, it emerged this week.

The Government paid many of the Church’s costs upfront to kick-start preparations for the visit. It is now expecting millions of pounds of debt to be repaid by the end of the financial year.

The Church has already raised £6.5 million for the visit but total costs are expected to be about £10 million, leaving a shortfall of £3.5 million.

The Church is counting heavily on contributions from dioceses to pay make up this shortfall. It is also relying on contributions from the sale of the Magnificat papal visit prayer book, one million of which were printed.

A spokesman for the Church in England and Wales said: “It’s up to the papal visit trustees to decide how to deal with any shortfall that’s still there in April – we are just waiting for the Government to pass the bills on once they are all in. As they do not yet have all the bills it is hard to say what the exact financial costs will be.

“Not all the monies from the Magnificat [prayer book] have come in yet and there are still other sources we are waiting for.”

The amount paid for by the Government also stands at £10 million, with £3.7 million taken from the environment and energy budgets and other departments deemed by the Treasury as having policy objectives aligned with the Government’s aims for the Pope’s visit.

During the visit Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, met the Climate and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, and Pope Benedict mentioned the environment in his speeches.

The Government budget was further divided into slices from the farming and rural affairs, communities and local government and education and international development departments.

Bridging measures will be put in place if the Church’s dioceses fail to meet the shortfall what they owe by April.

The last papal visit in 1982 left the Church deeply in debt. As the visit by John Paul II was deemed a pastoral visit, the Church paid for it all.

Meanwhile, National Express coach service has announced that its revenues have been boosted by the papal visit.
The company, which ran 1,000 coaches to Birmingham from across Britain to see the Pope last month, said revenues around that period had increased by four per cent compared to the year before.