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Pope visit will see public paying up to £25 for ticket

The faithful are to be charged up to £25 a head to see Pope Benedict XVI when he comes to Britain later this year.

It will be the first time pilgrims have been charged to attend events during a papal visit and the charges reflect mounting concerns about the costs of the trip.

Charges will be levied for tickets to two events: a prayer vigil in London's Hyde Park on 18 September and the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham the following day. Church officials said the charges are for transportation to the London and Birmingham events but that pilgrims who want to attend must join a parish group and cannot travel independently. There are 70,000 tickets for the beatification and 130,000 for the Hyde Park vigil.

They said the charges were being made because the pilgrims would be "journeying" to see the Pope, just as ancient pilgrims did, and would be provided with a "pilgrim pack".

A spokesman said: "Those attending the gatherings are not just 'ticket' holders, nor guests nor visitors; they are gathering as a representative body of the faithful from across the UK and thus are more akin to the ancient notion of pilgrims journeying to a spiritual experience – in the same way that the Vatican entitles all papal visits as an 'apostolic journey'."

The Vatican has been alarmed by the costs of the visit, with the most recent estimates suggesting it will have to find £14m while taxpayers are facing a £20m bill.

Officials have blamed health and safety rules for increasing the costs and said there are considerably more regulations than in 1982 when Pope John Paul II visited.

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