Papal visit comes at a cost

Just the temporary infrastructures built for the Pope's visit are costing more than SFr1 million Keystone

The Pope’s visit to Switzerland has a spiritual goal, but the Catholics promoting his trip also have more down-to-earth concerns.

This content was published on June 2, 2004 - 20:00

Facing costs of well over SFr2 million ($1.6 million), the organisers are having trouble convincing potential sponsors to lend their support.

The city and canton of Bern are already underwriting security costs for the trip, as they always do for the visit of any head of state, but otherwise no public money is being invested in the event. The organisers are left to foot any other bills.

The stage for the Sunday Mass will cost SFr600,000 alone, to which another half a million must be added for the preparation and clearing of the meadow where the Pope is expected to greet 50,000 people.

Sleeping quarters for the 10,000 young Catholics who will meet the Pontiff on Saturday at the Bern arena will tack another SFr350,000 on to the bill.

Adding in additional costs, the organisers expect the total to reach the SFr2.5-million mark.

Funding sources

A number of sources are being tapped to cover costs: Church central coffers and foundations are just two of them.

Fundraising events have also been held and young Catholics are paying an entrance fee for Saturday’s meeting.

While the Sunday Mass is free of charge, those attending the youth event are expected to fork out SFr50.

The organisers are also hoping that more sponsors will be found as John Paul II’s visit nears. They budgeted for SFr410,000 from business sources, but have had to be content with a quarter of a million so far.

“I’ve been in touch with 100 companies in Switzerland,” said Angela Kreis-Muzzulini, who is responsible for sponsorship for the papal visit. “All those who turned us down said it was because it was a religious event.”

She added that company policy usually dictates this decision.


The Switcher clothing company, which is supplying t-shirts for the visit, has no qualms about being a sponsor.

“I see it as a Christian meeting, open to all confessions,” said company director Robin Cornelius. “I don’t think there is anything political about it.”

Nestlé is another company lending its support to the Pope’s visit. The multinational is one of the biggest sponsors, handing over SFr50,000.

Other sponsors or donors include companies such as Coca-Cola Switzerland and Novartis. The organisers of the papal trip say these multinationals adhere to a strict code of ethics they have set out.

Kreis-Muzzulini says, for example, that working with Coca-Cola is not a problem since in Switzerland it works according to local guidelines. And it was possible to accept help from drugs company Novartis since it made a gift, and is not a sponsor.

If there is a budget shortfall at the end of the Pope’s visit, the organisers plan to turn to the country’s dioceses, and to increase fundraising efforts. The Swiss Bishops’ Conference has guaranteed to cover any deficit.

swissinfo, Bernard Léchot (translation: Scott Capper)

Key facts

The budget for the Pope’s visit, without security costs, is around SFr2.5 million ($2 million).
The city and canton of Bern are covering most of the security costs.
No public funds will otherwise be used for the papal visit.
Sponsors will cover part of the non-security costs, while the Catholic community will shoulder the rest.

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