New Statesman Claims Bellahouston Park Will Be Poorly Attended

Our Lord is behind him, but what of Scottish Catholics?
The New Statesman Online Magazine has claimed that the Holy Father has been 'snubbed' by Scottish Catholics, with a low attendance expected for the open-air Mass in Bellahouston Park...

'Controversy has broken out over the Pope's planned open-air Mass at Bellahouston Park, near Glasgow, with many parishes returning more than half of their allocated tickets for the event.


The organisers now reportedly fear that attendance will fall short of the 100,000 they expected to come to the Mass, which will cost £1.5m to stage. Each of Scotland's 450 Catholic parishes received a pro-rata ticket allocation based on the size of its regular congregation, but the Herald reports that, in some cases, only one-sixth of the parishioners are planning to take up their places at the papal event.


In 1982, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at the same site on a sunny afternoon, with 300,000 people in attendance. The choice of this site has been interpreted as an attempt to re-create the success and popularity of that service for a pope who has been under siege in recent months.


The open-air Mass requires participants to be in their places hours before the two-hour service begins, and it is thought that fears about the weather and long travel times are putting people off. Distant parishes are also planning to watch the service via video link, rather than travel to the other side of the country to attend in person.


The service, which will take place on 19 September during the Pope's state visit to Britain, has also reopened the debate over the cost of the papal trip to Britain. Although it insists that pilgrims will not have to pay to attend the Mass at Bellahouston, the Catholic Church has asked each parish to make a donation of £20 per attendee - an obligation that many parishes have passed on to their parishioners.


The total cost of the visit, which will be borne by Britain, as the host nation, provoked outrage in some quarters when it was revealed that it could exceed £20m. As well as asking for "voluntary donations" from the public to cover the cost of specific events, the Catholic Church is also asking members to donate towards the overall cost of the visit, which it currently estimates at £7m.


The Church is also selling merchandise to coincide with the trip. T-shirts, fridge magnets and mugs are available, as well as more conventional religious artefacts. Besides being hit by low attendance figures, the Pope's visit could suffer from a lack of television exposure, after BBC workers threatened to strike during that period (which will coincide with other major events such as the Last Night of the Proms) over pension disputes. Workers are being balloted on the issue; a result is expected in the week before the Pope is due to arrive in Britain.


Add to this the stated intention of Richard Dawkins and others to attempt to arrest the Pope for his alleged complicity in the child abuse scandal while he is on British soil, and we could be in for an eventful visit come September.'

Any initial thoughts on this report?

H/T Raymond Bell

Comments

Dope the Pope, he's nicer that way! said…
I'm sure it will be a semi-flop, most catholic wish to distance themselves from Benedict's particular brand of fundamentalism
Theresa said…
Yep I've got some thoughts; what a load of (insert Anglo Saxon here).

My parish applied for 700 tickets and only got 500; it's been the same story in a neighbouring parish. They do seem to be doing their utmost to put us off; dire warnings about inclement weather, uncomfortable seating and not being allowed to just turn up. For crying out loud we're Scots. We are used to rain and weather. We host T in the Park every year and it's not comfortable to say the least. We will cope. I think the New Statesman is doing one of those wish fulfillment reports. It's total nonsense.
Patricius said…
Whoever came up with the idea of charging people to attend the masses is clearly a half wit! I say this as one who has coughed up the £25 per head required for each member of my family intending to go to the Newman Beatification Mass in Birmingham. No one asked us to pay to attend the masses with Pope John Paul in 1982 and everyone was free to make their own travel arrangements. We have already been told that most people will have to be content with watching the Pope on television and there has been nothing like the preparation of music in parishes and schools which went on for several months before Pope John Paul's visit. I fear it will not only the Scottish leg of the visit that will be poorly attended. What the organisers have clearly failed to appreciate is that the visit is not about a treat for Pope Benedict's British fans but about an opportunity for the Church in these lands to witness to our fellow countrymen and women at this crucial time.
georgem said…
Perhaps the Scots could send any spare tickets down south. My parish got diddly-squat for the Birmingham Mass.
It would be fascinating to know who is masterminding (sic) the tickets allocation and the criteria applied. Did PPs have to apply or wait to be told?
I'm sure that English Catholics will be more than willin tomake up numbers if the Scots don't want to turn out (in my parish we've got a reserve list five times larger than the number of places that we've been allocated).
Greet the Pope! said…
Are you going planning on going Lawrence?

Maybe you're on the A-list for the Beatification Mass?

If not, I hear it's relatively easy to get tickets for Hyde Park and the donation has been reduced to £5 since they're not including a travelcard now. Carol Vordermann is compere for the first part of the day and they've got the winner of Britain's Got Talent to start the event by singing the Lords Prayer.

Or if you don't fancy joining in then there's a bunch of FSSPX going to say the rosary in a far flung corner of the park somewhere.
dominic said…
I don't know if it is entirely fair comment (as a Catholic layman I don't know anything like all the facts...) but broadly speaking I get the impression that the way the papal events in England have been organized has, intentionally or otherwise, had the effect of reducing the numbers of those able to attend. Not just the ticketing and obligatory group membership thing (although they are important), but the short notice, announced at a period when many people are likely to be on holiday/away from home, given to apply for tickets, too.

Although I know that the story is somewhat different elsewhere, I do know that my parish (in Brentwood diocese, somewhere within very easy and fairly rapid reach, by public or private transport, of London, at least) took nowhere near its full allocation of places, and neither did at least two of the neighbouring parishes (in one of which the parish priest "expressed his surprise" in the weekly newsletter). Indeed, in that parish (which I won't name, but it does have a monthly mass in Extraordinary form, and is one of the better-attended parishes in the diocese) he gave exact figures: 36 out of 145 allocated places for Hyde Park were taken up, and 15 out of 30 for Birmingham.

Whether that is typical of the broader experience I could not say.

But in any case the contrast with something like the tour of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux last year could not be greater. But one does get the general impression that this is being organized is such a way as to keep the number of attendees down.

if this is a reasonable interpretation, I do wonder why that might be.
Greet the Pope?

A-List? I expect that Catholics loyal to the Holy Father would not make it onto the A-List.
I plan to go yes, with around 42 parishioners to Hyde Park...if I make it onto the 'list' at all!
Anonymous said…
If it is a flop, it will be the fault of the Church authorities, not the faithfull.
-Tickets allocated in the middle of the holidays.
-No provision whatsoever for the elderly.
-No one knows yet will the schools be going/open/closed that day.
-No one can go on their own, must travel with a parish group.
_ You cannot make up your mind at the last min, its already too late.
I could go on....
Anonymous said…
Very Interesting!
Thank You!