Payments of nearly £2 million towards the cost of the Pope’s state visit to the UK have been made by the Department for International Development (DfID). The British Humanist Association (BHA) has described the payments as illegitimate use of government funds. In October 2010, it was reported that £3.7 million had been paid towards the spiralling costs of the Papal visit from environmental funds, by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The payment came to light following an investigation into the accounts of DfID, by the International Development Select Committee, which considered the transfer of funds as surprising, and has asked the government for further explanation. A spokesperson for DfID claimed that the £1.85 million contribution ‘Recognised the Catholic Church’s role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries’. The BHA has described this reasoning as ‘irrational and wrong’.
BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Millions and millions from the public purse has been used to foot the cost of the Pope’s visit to the UK, with much of that diverted from crucial funds, including from foreign aid designated to help some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. It is irrational and wrong for government to say that the money was paid to recognise the work that the Catholic Church does overseas as an NGO – questionable in itself – when the money was used to fund the state visit. Most people, including Christians, did not think that the British taxpayer should pay for the Pope’s visit in the first place, and many will be astonished to see the detrimental impact that this illegitimate use of public funds has already made.’
For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585 or 07540 257101.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.
The Pope made a state visit to the UK in September 2010. The BHA was a founding member of the Protest the Pope is a campaign that believes that, as a head of state, the Pope is an unsuitable guest of the UK government and should not have been accorded the honour and recognition of a state visit to our country.www.protest-the-pope.org.uk