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Pope's Visit to Spain Comes Under Fire


Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during a general audience in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, in the outskirts of Rome, August 10, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during a general audience in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, in the outskirts of Rome, August 10, 2011

The cost of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Spain next week is coming under fire from lay groups and even some priests as the country grapples with painful budget cuts.

The pope arrives in Madrid on August 18 to attend the final four days of the Roman Catholic Church's six-day World Youth Day festivities. Festival attendance is expected to top one million.

World Youth Day organizers estimate the festival cost at between 50 and 60 million euros, not including security.

Organizers say 80 percent of the costs will be financed by church offerings. The remainder will come from companies and individuals. Corporate sponsors are eligible for tax rebates of up to 80 percent of the amount donated because the Spanish government has named World Youth Day as an event of "exceptional public interest".

The Priest Forum, comprised of 120 priests from Madrid's poorest parishes, is critical of the loss of state revenues, because the government has cut social spending and public worker salaries.

Nearly 150 groups say they plan to protest on August 17, the eve of Pope Benedict's visit. Protest organizers say they do not oppose the visit, only the way in which it is being financed.

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