One of the most tiresome lies about World Youth Day is that it represents a significant financial drain on its host country. Anti-catholic dilettante Amanda Marcotte summed up this line of attack well when she wrote:
[Vatican officials] have to keep helping fund these $87-million (the estimated cost of the Pope’s event in Madrid) Pope excursions, you know.*
She later retracted:
This post originally stated that the Pope’s trip to Madrid would cost $87 million dollars; that is the estimated cost of staging the entire event. The post also suggested that World Youth Day is being funded through “the collection plate.” Organizers say that the costs—pegged in some other news sources at closer $72 million—are mostly being covered by pilgrims’ registration fees.
I dismantled the rest of Marcotte’s anti-Catholic rant here. The New York Times also echoed this meme in an article titled “Catholic Clergy Protest Pope’s Visit, And Its Price Tag.”
But let’s get back to this mini-course in World Youth Day Economics 101…
This story suggests that a great deal of the WYD expenses (70-80%) were covered by donations from Catholic parishes and dioceses in Spain, and the remainder from corporate sponsorship (mostly Catholic organizations).
Furthermore, the two million pilgrims spent a great deal of their own money while in Spain. The head of Madrid’s chamber of commerce estimates that World Youth Day events brought at least 160 million euros (=230 million dollars) into the Spanish economy:
Pilgrims traveling to Madrid spent roughly that sum on transportation, food, lodging, recreation, and souvenirs, said Arturo Fernandez. His report counters complaints that World Youth Day put extra burdens on Spain’s depressed economy.
One civic association in Madrid reported selling 3 million meal tickets to WYD pilgrims, at a profit of €22.5 million ($32 million) for those transactions alone.
Frankly I think that estimate is still low — if the average pilgrim spent $300 while in Spain (that’s getting by pretty cheap) the total windfall to the Spanish economy would be over $600 million.
Plus, nearly all the reports I’ve read which comment on the question note that the pilgrims were particularly neat and tidy. Soccer hooligans trash cities, pilgrims respect them.
So Spain, you’re welcome. Two million tidy, paying customers.
Brazil should count itself lucky that it will be hosting the next World Youth Day in 2013. Hopefully that time around we won’t have to deal with ignoramuses who complain about the cost, when what they really hate is the message.
And maybe, just maybe, this little point about the true “cost” of World Youth Day will encourage the complainers to realize how unfairly they view the Church on other matters.
Rome Reports released a nice video showing visuals from WYD and mentioning the numbers: