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COSTS-BENEFITS Apr-29-2008 (600 words) Sidebar to POPE-COSTS. xxxn

Pope's U.S. visit expected to yield spiritual returns beyond costs

By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While critics of the money spent on the papal visit have argued the funds could have gone to better use by feeding the hungry or providing aid to the needy, Brian Reynolds, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., said the investment in the event has inspired the faithful and will ultimately help those in need all over the planet.

"It's good Catholic evangelization in action," Reynolds said. "Our experience has been that when the faithful are excited about their own church experiences and when people are enthusiastic, evangelization happens. With that outreach and service happens."

Since the pope inspired passionate spirituality among millions of all faiths, those citizens will also be inspired by the Gospel that urges followers to donate their time, money and resources to worthy endeavors, like programs for the homeless, hungry and destitute, he said.

"This is how the faith gets spread," Reynolds said. "The money spent won't take away from someone in need. It's a call to the missionary spirit that is in our roots. How do you measure the price of spiritual renewal?"

The U.S. papal visit April 15-20 is credited with improving Pope Benedict XVI's image in America, but also with energizing citizens of all faiths.

In general, the U.S. papal trip stimulated the spirituality of the nation's populace, coordinators of the many sponsors said.

"We have heard from many people -- not just Catholics -- about how they felt transformed spiritually by his presence and quiet message of hope and faith, something we need to hear more of in our world," said Susan Gibbs, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington. "There have been a number of stories of people returning to confession after years away, particularly at the Mass at Nationals Park."

With expenses for the trip estimated at least at $12.5 million, the spiritual experience didn't come cheap, but organizers contend it was money well spent.

The biggest costs for the archdioceses of Louisville, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore came in the form of travel expenses, most of which was recovered in ticket sales for transportation for those participating in the papal events.

The archdioceses of New York, Louisville, Boston and Philadelphia were celebrating their bicentennials this year and were given a special honor by the pope during his visit, as was the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the original diocese of the U.S., which recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of its elevation to an archdiocese.

"Judging from the responses we received from those who saw the pope in D.C. or New York, as well as those who watched it from a distance on television or the Internet, the Holy Father's visit and his thoughtful words and gestures made the entire experience well worth it," said Sean Caine, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was able to conclude its yearlong bicentennial celebration on a high note, with some 3,000 of its faithful attending the pope's final U.S. Mass April 20 in Yankee Stadium, said Father Zachary Navit, coordinator for archdiocesan participation in the papal visit and pastor of St. Francis de Sales and Most Blessed Sacrament parishes in Philadelphia.

"This was an unbudgeted event, but the people were so excited about the pope's U.S. visit, they haven't minded helping us pay our expenses," Father Navit said. "We were just flooded with ticket requests for all of the events. We stopped taking requests at around 12,000. All told we had 3,355 participants, so as you can imagine, there were some disappointed people."


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