Pope's one-day visit set to cost taxpayers 800,000 euros

The Latvian Justice Ministry has asked the government to allocate a total of 806,202 euros for preparations for the one-day visit of Pope Francis to Latvia in September this year, with the largest amount or 364,845 euros intended for renovation of the Aglona Basilica in eastern Latvia where the Pope will take the Mass on September 24.

The Justice Ministry said it had received a request from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rezekne-Aglona to recognize the Pope's visit as an event of national importance and to help with the arrangements that include security, transport, availability of emergency medical services, live broadcasts, and more.

The Latvian parliament has already declared the visit by the head of the Catholic church a national holiday. The government is expected to discuss the request for cash on July 3.

In addition to 364,845 sought for cleaning up the Aglona Basilica, the financing request includes security arrangements, which will be the responsibility of the Defense Ministry (EUR 22,544) and the Interior Ministry (EUR 60,432). The Health Ministry (EUR 15,938) is responsible for emergency medical services coverage at the event.

The Justice Ministry is also requesting EUR 134,510 for various arrangements which range from building the Pope's podium to waste collection in the area.

The allocations to the Transport Ministry are planned at EUR 49,000 to finance provision of additional public transport services and live broadcasts of Latvian Television.

The financing to the Latvian president's office is estimated at EUR 158,385, which will be spent on the organization of press centers in Riga and Aglona, helicopters and other means of transport.

Riga City Council plans to grant EUR 233,232 to the local Roman Catholic Church to help prepare for the Pope's visit. The largest amount requested by the church or 188,805 will be spent on renovation of the church properties in Riga.

Also June 29 the Roman Catholic church in Latvia published an open letter from its bishops that priests and public alike prepare for the Pope's visit well in advance. 

"To learn more about the Pope, his views and his upcoming visit, [the bishops] call for the use of the social networking account "PopeLatvia2018" and the website www.pavestslatvija2018.lv," the open letter says. The planned expenditure of the Vatican itself or the broader Roman Catholic church on the trip is not mentioned, though it is mentioned that on July 22 churches will be accepting donations from their congregations to their coffers in connection with the visit.

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