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Pope’s U.K. Visit Cost May Top Estimate by 50%, Government Says

Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit to the U.K. in September may cost the government as much as 12 million pounds ($18.4 million), 4 million pounds more than previously estimated.

The forecast spending for the state visit, which will start in Edinburgh on Sept. 16 and include stops in Glasgow, London and Birmingham, does not include the cost of policing, Chris Patten, Prime Minister David Cameron’s special representative for the trip, told reporters in London today.

The Roman Catholic Church has so far raised more than 5 million pounds of a 7 million-pound target to pay for its share of the trip, said Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Britain’s most senior Catholic. The church does not expect the government to subsidize parts of the visit that are “pastoral” as opposed to fulfilling the pope’s role as a head of state, Nichols said.

“Not a penny is expected from public funding for those aspects of the visit that are an expression simply of Catholic faith,” Nichols said. The church raised 1.1 million pounds from a collection in churches on May 23 and almost 4 million pounds from private donors, he said.

Pope Benedict may meet with victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests during his visit, Nichols said, and the pontiff will also meet with business leaders and bankers to discuss “the role played by faith in God in leadership in contemporary Britain,” he said.

It is the first state visit to the U.K. by a pope. The last trip, by Pope John Paul II in 1982, was a pastoral visit to Britain’s Catholics, who make up 11 percent of the population of 61.8 million people, Patten said.

The earlier estimates of the cost, which set the total at 15 million pounds with the government paying 8 million pounds, “were made in good faith but I think they underestimated the complexity of a visit that pulls together the normal aspects of a state visit and the pastoral events that are so important,” Patten said.

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