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$93,572 an Hour : Pope's Visit: Innovations Pay for It

July 24, 1987|RUSSELL CHANDLER | Times Religion Writer

Catholic leaders, seeking creative ways to raise $20 million to pay for Pope John Paul II's nine-day coast-to-coast U.S. visit this September, have auctioned a steer in Texas, accepted the use of 100 automobiles in Detroit, tapped a wealthy foundation in Los Angeles and staged a round of high-tab celebrity dinners in San Francisco.

"We're trying very hard to raise the money without fleecing the flock," said Father Miles Riley of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has budgeted $3.3 million for the Pope's 21-hour stop in that city.

Innovative fund raising is indeed necessary: It will cost the American Roman Catholic Church an average of $93,572 an hour for the pontiff's Sept. 10-19 tour.

And that does not count an estimated $50,000 an hour U.S. taxpayers must pay for security, crowd control and other government services during the trip. To protect the Pope, the U.S. Secret Service budget alone is $5.7 million. A spokesman for the agency said the cost could not be compared meaningfully to federal expenses incurred when other heads of state visit the United States "because each situation is so different."

Protests From Nuns

Some critics contend that the price tag for the pontiff's 222-hour U.S. swing is too high.

Complaints have included protests from two groups of Catholic nuns that the money could be better spent on the nation's homeless and financially sagging inner-city parochial schools.

Leaders planning the trip insist, however, that it is worth it.

"The money is well spent for the Catholics of the United States to host their pontiff . . . who is Christ's vicar on Earth," said Carl Eifert, a spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Big-buck items include stadium leases (one night's rental for the Los Angeles Coliseum is $125,000), liability insurance, sound equipment, altars, scaffolds, chairs and even portable toilets.

$307,692 an Hour

Hourly costs, based on working budgets submitted by the nine regions, compute from a low of $56,338 in New Orleans, where the Pope will spend 35 1/2 hours, to a high of $307,692 in Monterey and Carmel, where John Paul will stay less than seven hours. In Los Angeles, where Archbishop Roger Mahony has put a $3-million cap on costs for the 46 1/2 hours the pontiff will be in town, the hourly figure is $64,516.

Other cities on the tour, which is expected to reach tens of millions of U.S. Catholics in person and through radio and television, are Miami, Columbia, S.C.; San Antonio, Phoenix and Detroit.

In addition to these costs--borne by the dioceses playing host to the Pope--$2 million, largely for media and public relations expenses, must be raised by the national office of the U.S. Catholic Church.

John Paul's visit to the United States--his second as Pope, after a six-city tour in 1979--coincides with a $63-million deficit at the Vatican, which is depending on Catholics in affluent countries to erase the red ink.

Nearly all expenses of the Pope's numerous trips abroad are financed by the hosting churches and, since John Paul is a recognized head of state, by the governments of the countries he visits. These governments typically underwrite the costs of security and extra services.

Church officials note that if every U.S. Catholic would kick in, the high-priced U.S. endeavor would work out to no more than 40 cents per parishioner. And leaders calculate that if the church's costs were divided by the number of people admitted to the papal Masses and other ticketed events, the tab would be $15.

But all tickets will be free.

In fact, when the Diocese of Monterey proposed an assessment of $15 for each admission ticket and the sale of television rights to high-bidding stations for coverage of the huge Mass at Laguna Seca Raceway, howls of protest quickly persuaded diocesan leaders to scrap the plan.

And no memorabilia--like the papal T-shirts, beer mugs and "popesicle" bars that inevitably show up wherever John Paul goes--will be endorsed or marketed by the church. Official commemorative booklets and coins are planned in several cities, however.

Creative Fund Raising

Most dioceses are relying on creative techniques of voluntary fund raising, counting on generous contributions from the Catholic and non-Catholic populace and banking on the largess of public relations-conscious business firms to boost them over the budget hurdle. Two months before the Pope's scheduled arrival, most of the dioceses were at or slightly above the halfway mark in reaching their budget goals, according to local officials.

Political-style fund raising is in high gear in San Francisco, Miami and Phoenix, where the resident bishops are lobbying the wealthy.

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