As Spain prepares for a visit from Pope Benedict next week, many are saying that the estimated €60m (over $85 million) required to accommodate the visit just cannot be spared, as the country is facing a serious cut-requiring deficit and a 20 percent unemployment rate.
The Madrid visit for World Youth Day has also struck a chord with priests from the poorer parishes who also take issue with the fact that the visit is being primarily covered (80 percent) by church offerings. The remaining cost is being covered by individuals and businesses. Corporate sponsors are eligible for tax rebates of up to 80 of the amount donated. The Spanish government is providing this rebate because it considers World Youth Day to be of “exceptional public interest”.
Protestors have taken to Facebook, calling for a boycott of some of the sponsors, which include Coca-Cola and Telefónica. Some 140 groups, including Europa Laica (Secular Europe), which advocates for a Europe without interference from the Vatican, have pointed out that the Vatican receives special treatment, and it should not when it means trips like these are paid for by a financially struggling people and companies whose donations are returned by a government that cannot even afford its people.
“With the economic crisis we are going through, we can’t pay for this. The church should set the example,” a spokesman for the Indignados movement, which has staged high-profile protests in central Madrid told The Guardian. “They propose to spend €60m when the regional government has just cut €40m from the education budget.”
The majority of those in protest over the Pope’s arrival say they are not opposed to the visit as a whole, just the way in which it has been financed.
The Pope is scheduled to arrive in Madrid August 15.