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Pope ‘too busy’ to meet Charles during state visit

The Pope will be “too busy” to meet Prince Charles on his historic four-day visit to Britain later this year, it has been claimed.

The Pontiff is due to meet the Queen and Prince Philip at Hollyrood House in Edinburgh, but Pope Benedict XVI turned down a request to meet Prince Charles at a separate venue the same day, according to a Sunday newspaper.

The visit, from September 16-19, will be only the second by a Pope to Britain, and the first state visit.

When John Paul II came 28 years ago it was a pastoral visit at the invitation of the local bishops and not — as on this occasion — as a guest of the government and the Queen.

A spokesman for the Prince of Wales denied he had been snubbed.

“There were discussions between the Vatican and Clarence House about the possibility of having a separate meeting while the Pope was in Edinburgh, but there wasn't time in his schedule for that,” said the spokesman.

The spokesman also denied that the Prince had rejected a subsequent invitation by the Pope to join him at an inter-faith event in London the following day.

Last year, the Prince and Camilla, both divorcees, were granted a private audience with the Pope in Rome.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about the spiralling costs of the Pope’s visit. It has been estimated that the bill for policing, accommodation and travel could set the taxpayer back £20m.

The state is expected to pick up the bill for policing, which includes guaranteeing his safety during the 14 engagements. Three open-air events — celebrating Mass before 100,000 people in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow; holding a prayer vigil in Hyde Park, London; and marking the beatification of Cardinal Newman in Birmingham's Cofton Park, are expected to generate the greatest costs.

A number of groups have vowed to mount protests against the visit, citing allegations of child abuse by Catholic clergy and the record of the church on contraception and equal rights for homosexuals.

Non-policing costs, including accommodation and travel for the papal delegation, will be split between church and Government.

However, it is understood the church has so far raised only £4m from the laity and £1.1m from a Pentecost Sunday parish appeal.

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