Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Bottom Line

It's been a frequently asked question: how much is This Thing gonna cost?

Short answer: a shade of WYD Sydney.

Long answer:
The Washington archdiocese predicts that the three days Pope Benedict XVI will spend in the capital, starting on Tuesday, will cost at least $3 million. The New York archdiocese has not ventured an estimate for its leg of the journey.

Past visits provide some benchmarks. Pope John Paul II’s trip to the East Coast in October 1995 cost about $1 million to $1.2 million a day, by the estimate of Monsignor Robert Coleman, an organizer of the 1995 papal visit to the archdiocese of Newark and dean of Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary. But heightened security after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will probably push the costs higher this time, he said.

Representatives of the archdioceses of Washington and New York said no one knows for certain how much the entire papal visit will cost in the end — or the economic or even the pastoral benefits that might accrue.

“The Mass at Nationals Park, security, transportation of bishops and people, planning — we don’t have a playbook for this,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Washington archdiocese, who pointed out that the last papal visit to the capital was in 1979.

The two archdioceses on the Pope’s schedule have taken different approaches to financing the visit. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington decided that parish and diocesan money should not be used for the visit, Ms. Gibbs said, given the other financial pressures that the archdiocese faces. Instead, Archbishop Wuerl established the Christ Our Hope foundation, financed by wealthy donors, to underwrite the costs. Ms. Gibbs declined to identify the donors or the size of their contributions.

The foundation has raised more than $3 million so far; any surplus will be donated to a charity of the Pope’s choice, in his name, Ms. Gibbs said.

Security costs may eat up much of the foundation’s resources.

Carrie Brooks, a spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington, said that the Secret Service was taking the lead in coordinating the Pope’s security while he is in the capital. Ms. Brooks said city police will be most involved in coordinating street closures for processions. The total expected cost to the city is estimated at $2,190,955, to provide security, close streets and clean up after parades, she said.

Ms. Brooks said in an e-mail message that every year, the city tries to get back from the federal government what it spends on such efforts for visiting dignitaries, and that it has “also reached out to the archdiocese to discuss cost-sharing.”

Though the New York archdiocese was host to a papal visit in 1995, it does not have an estimate of how much this trip will cost, said its spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. While the New York archdiocese will appeal to wealthier donors for support, Mr. Zwilling added, “We will obviously be turning to parishioners and asking them to contribute and help underwrite the cost of the visit.”

The New York archdiocese is getting a break here and there: it will not have to pay for extra security provided by New York City or for the use Yankee Stadium as the site of the papal Mass, Mr. Zwilling said. The Washington archdiocese will have to pay to rent Nationals Park....

Less tangible gains from the visit might be harder to track, like the impact of the visit on Catholics’ spiritual lives.

But pastoral life in the archdiocese of Denver improved markedly after Pope John Paul II visited in 1993 for World Youth Day, the National Catholic Reporter found. Attendance at mass increased in the archdiocese, while it decreased in other parts of the country. Enrollment in local Catholic schools grew. And a year after the visit, the archdiocese registered 2,000 converts, more than any other diocese in the country, the paper reported.

Monsignor Coleman of Immaculate Conception seminary said: “Certainly after the papal visit, just in my recollection, did the number of applicants to the seminary increase? Yes.”

He added: “I think there is a spiritual impact on the faithful, though it is hard to measure. The visit gives inspiration to people to embrace the faith, to return to the faith.”
...and another from the Capital's Times:

Papal trips are pricey because of the security and logistics of transporting a pope to multiple venues. Open-air Masses — of which there will be two at Yankee and Nationals stadiums — cost thousands of dollars in equipment rental, media towers and labor costs.

It is not clear whether the Vatican pays for transporting the pontiff on his Alitalia Shepherd One jet or shipping costs for his Mercedes-Benz popemobile, built at a cost of $511,000. Journalists who accompany the pope pay top dollar — more than $4,000 each — for round-trip tickets on the papal plane.

The bulk of the expenses are paid by the hosting diocese. John Paul II's 1987 swing through nine dioceses in 10 days cost American Catholics $20 million. His one-day stop in St. Louis in 1999 cost $7 million, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

In a March interview, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl came up with a $3 million estimate for the D.C. portion of the papal visit, adding that he would like to raise another $1 million to send back to Rome as a "gift he could use for the poor around the world."

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York did not have an estimate for its end of the visit, but money from a second collection from its 405 parishes on Easter Sunday went toward defraying the costs....

The Metropolitan Police Department told The Times last week that security costs alone would be "in the millions" and that the Vatican would foot the bill.

Several sources said raising money for a papal visit is not difficult and that the big contributors will be invited to the White House: either to tomorrow morning's ceremony on the South Lawn or to a more formal dinner tomorrow night in the East Room.

"There will be three or four people who will come up with the big money," said Raymond L. Flynn, who was a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican during the Clinton administration. "The well-connected Catholics like Benedict."

"There is an infrastructure in place for large fundraising in the Catholic sector," said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The archbishop doesn't have to do Tupperware parties."

"My guess is this is being underwritten by a small group of Catholic philanthropists," said the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, a service network. "People are very generous toward the Holy Father."

"When you get the call from the archbishop for something as special as this, it's a big deal," said Joseph J. Dempsey Jr., executive director of the Order of Malta, a Catholic lay religious order. "It might be a little easier than other asks the archbishop has to make."

The Knights of Columbus gave a "substantial contribution in the six figures" to both archdioceses and to the Eternal Word TV Network, which is broadcasting the visit, said Patrick Korten, a spokesman for the fraternal society.

"There are some wealthy Catholics who've ponied up a good bit," he said. "We've made some donations to help out with these events. We are always there for the pope.

Keep in mind that there's been no such thing a cumulative budget given the host of entities involved, both ecclesiastical and civil. A rough list of these includes the two host dioceses, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Holy See itself, Catholic University (which has estimated its leg's cost at $800K), the White House, Secret Service, Homeland Security, Defense Department (due to the use of Andrews AFB), cities of New York and Washington and their police departments, the UN... and on and on.

For what it's worth, though, early estimates had this PopeTrip's bottom line running at around $1.5 million a day. Current buzzmill projections are looking at a total of somewhere between $10 and, at an outer extreme, $15 million all told.