Projected cost of Pope’s visit to Chile sparks controversy

Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times Staff

SANTIAGO – The projected cost paid by the Chilean government to host the Pope in January 2018 will be around 7 billion Chilean Pesos (over US$11 million), it has been revealed. This is in addition to 4 billion Pesos which the Catholic Church will be donating to aid his visit.

The visit, which is going to last 4 days between 15th and 18th of January, will see Pope Francis visiting Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. Much of the cost to the State will be in the movement of thousands of public officials to the cities, as well as the necessary security protection that such a visit will entail.

Pope Francis to visit Chile and Peru in 2018: Vatican

Paula Narváez, the Secretary of State, highlighted on Sunday that “this figure is still under investigation, and that a more precise cost will be released in the next two weeks”, reported Emol. She also commented that “there is an important quantity of parishioners who, it Is expected, will want to be involved in the different activities in which the Pope is involved.”

Part of the cost will be seen in reinforcing border security and ensuring that there is a stable infrastructure to support the estimated 350 000 visitors from abroad who wish to follow the Pope’s visit. This will involve several government agencies, including the State Police, Border Control, the Investigative Police and the Customs Agency.

Vatican releases logo, motto for Pope’s trip to Chile

The reported cost has raised highly differing opinions from the Presidential candidates, according to Emol. José Antonio Kast, a known devout Catholic, commented that “I would love for people to look on the positive side, because this is a visit which aims to spread peace, to defend life, to strengthen the family, and we see how normally the Government spends Chilean resources in precisely the opposite.”

Marco Enríquez-Ominami underlined that this was a “false controversy”, and pointed out the “when one head of State visits another, it is the receiving head who pays”, using the examples of Bush, Clinton and Obama to highlight the normality of this type of cost. However, he did query whether “Chile, the State, should pay for the masses which he performs? That should be discussed.”

Pope Francis sends US$150,000 for Mexico earthquake relief

Nevertheless, Caroline Goic questioned the need for such a high cost, stating that she does not know “the precise detail of the budget, but it should be revisited and changed. Pope Francis would also probably want a more austere budget.”