Swiss Guard outside St Peter's Basilica
The Pope is due to visit Britain later this year and the faithful are to be charged up to £25 a head to see Benedict XVI. 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 made for 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. 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'.
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.
The faithful will pay up without complaint no doubt. That's the reason why the Vatican is one of the wealthiest businesses in the world.
Not surprisingly the Vatican appear to have banned 'immodestly' dressed tourists from the entire Vatican City State. For many years those wishing to visit St Peter's Basilica have been required to dress modestly but recently the guards drew aside men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them they were not dressed properly. Some of the female visitors bought shawls and scarves from nearby sellers (possibly at exorbitant prices) while a few men had to wander off to the nearest shops to buy long trousers.
So be warned. If you intend to visit the Vatican City when in Rome cover up or it could cost you far more than you thought. Why do the words Vatican City and cover up ring a bell with me?