Wednesday, March 05, 2008

G'Day... Ka-Ching

The cost of this summer's World Youth Day in Sydney has ballooned to AUS$150 million (US$140 mil):
THE cost of staging World Youth Day in Sydney has escalated, climbing to $150 million after originally being budgeted to cost $100 million [US$93 million], the Sydney Catholic church has disclosed.

In a confidential briefing to diocesan priests last week, the archdiocese revised to $150 million its budget for the July event, billed as the largest religious gathering in Australian history.

The new estimates include government cash grants but not provision of in-kind services including visa processing for pilgrims, the Pope's security, policing, sleeping accommodation at public schools and emergency health care worth more than $20 million.

Nor does it include the $41 million in compensation provided by the NSW and federal governments to the Australian Jockey Club and the racing industry to secure the use of Randwick Racecourse for the overnight vigil Mass to be attended by Pope Benedict XVI on his first visit to Australia.

In a prior note to priests, the church has made it clear it considers only a small proportion of the overall racing package to be directly related to World Youth Day activities.

Sydney's Catholic priests have been told that the bulk of the $150 million - four dollars in every five - will go towards providing accommodation, meals and care for more than 200,000 local and international pilgrims and the staging of major events including the opening and closing Mass.

Pilgrims' registration fees - which vary according to source country and accommodation needs - will meet about half of all costs. The rest is to be made up by federal grants (20 to 24 per cent), the church and donors (18 to 22 per cent) and business partners and sponsors (8 to 10 per cent).

In the briefing paper, obtained by the Herald, the church denies it is making a profit from hosting World Youth Day. Instead it is expected to contribute $15 million towards the staging costs and has ruled out any special parish taxes and levies.

"[The Archdiocese of Sydney] has budgeted to make a substantial contribution towards the costs of World Youth Day," the briefing paper states. "It is doing this because it shares the Holy Father's belief that World Youth Day will make a substantial and ongoing contribution to Australia's, and the world's, Catholic youth.