Pilgrims are returning passes for the Pope’s visit to Birmingham because of the tight security surrounding the event, a spokesman for the Catholic church has claimed.
Pope Benedict XVI will conduct an open-air Mass in front of 70,000 people at Cofton Park on Sunday, September 19. The park is open from 2am with around 20,000 worshippers expected from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Council officials fear the visit will prompt an influx of travelling families desperate to see the Pope, despite all of the the so-called pilgrim passes having sold out.
But Archdiocese spokesman Peter Jennings said some parishioners had withdrawn their application for a place at the Mass because of the rigmarole involved in negotiating the security measures.
Mr Jennings, who previously called the security plans “draconian”, said: “The security is extremely rigorous and has put a large number of people off. We are getting people who are saying that they put their name down for a pilgrim pass, but want it to be taken off.
“I’m expressing the anguish and anxiety that’s been expressed to us by many of the older people in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. They are very concerned about getting up in the middle of the night and getting on coaches.
“I felt the security was draconian – meaning very rigorous.
“But I’m not criticising the security in any way – the government has to decide, not the Catholic church.”
The cost of policing the Pope’s four-day trip to Britain, which will include three open air masses in Birmingham, London and Glasgow, has been put at more than £7million.
Last month Bob Jones, head of finance at West Midlands Police, said the force may have no choice but to slash the number of its bobbies on the beat to fund its share of the bill for the visit.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said last week: “The government is working with local authorities and the police and has to balance security while working with the church to secure a good experience for pilgrims.”