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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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Britain "ignorant about religion" as Pope tickets remain unsold

Brits knows more about Paul Newman than John Henry Newman, says an Opus Dei spokesman, as Ian Paisley plans a protest.

The official programme of the Pope's visit has been released, featuring John Henry Newman's motto 'Cor ad Cor Loquitor' - Heart speaks unto heart.
The official programme of the Pope's visit has been released, featuring John Henry Newman's motto 'Cor ad Cor Loquitor' - Heart speaks unto heart.
Image: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

A SENIOR OPUS DEI spokesman has lambasted the British public for their “ignorance” about Catholic theology as thousands of tickets for Masses given by Pope Benedict on his visit to the UK this week remain unsold.

Benedict arrives in the UK on Thursday for a three-day visit, the first official state visit by the Pontiff in over 500 years, but the Church has only managed to cover about £6.2m of the projected £10m cost of his visit as thousands of tickets for open-air events remain unsold.

Those considering forking out £20 for tickets to the papal masses may not be keen to do so, either, after Opus Dei spokesman Jack Valero criticised the public’s reluctance to welcome the “huge prestige and kudos” that the Pope’s visit would bring.

Valero also said the boost to the economies of London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow would receive such massive profits that the controversy over the cost of the trip – where he said the Pope would “evangelise” Britain – would evaporate.

Referring to UCD founder and Victorian theologian John Henry Newman, who is to be beatified on Sunday morning, Valero said:

A year ago, when the Pope’s visit was announced, most people in the streets didn’t know who Newman was. They’d heard of Paul Newman, but apart from that they didn’t know very much.

Newman could be used as a vehicle for unity between the Church of England and Roman Catholics. He lived for 89 years – 44 as an Anglican and 45 as a Catholic.

He is very popular with everyone – Anglicans, Catholics, even gays like him because they say he was homosexual.

The latter remark is a nod to the visit’s goal of easing tensions between Britain’s Anglican and Catholic communities, which split almost 500 years ago.

Organisers for the visit have blamed the less-than-impressive ticket sales – with a substantial number of the 400,000 tickets for open-air events remaining unsold – on “administration problems“.

Because of the tight security controls around the pontifical visit, attendees are required to attach themselves to a local parish and travel from designated points from as early as 3am. Older potential pilgrims, meanwhile, have been put off by the early starts required as a result.

Tickets for Newman’s beatification cost £25, while attendance at the Glasgow mass is £20. The Hyde Park evening vigil, however, which costs £5, is likely to be full.

The Glasgow event will be attended by a delegation from Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church, including Paisley himself, who intend to protest at the pope’s visit while the Church does apparently little to tackle its own divisions over clerical sexual abuse.

Pope John Paul II visited Britain in 1982 but his visit is considered a pastoral one, and not an official state visit.

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Gavan Reilly

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