VATICAN CITY – VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI thanked the British on Wednesday for the "vast amount of work" they have put into his upcoming visit and said he hoped their efforts would pay off.
Benedict's Sept. 16-19 trip has been controversial from the start, in large part because of the cost: up to 12 million pounds ($18.5 million) for British taxpayers, not counting extra policing costs.
Pilgrims have been asked to pay up to 25 pounds to help offset the church's own bill, which is estimated at an additional 10 million pounds.
"I am aware of the vast amount of work that has gone into the preparations for the visit, not only by the Catholic community but by the government, the local authorities in Scotland, London and Birmingham," Benedict said in English at his weekly general audience.
"I want to say how much I appreciate the efforts that have been made to ensure that the various events planned will be truly joyous celebrations."
The pope said he was looking forward to beatifying Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism whose Sept. 19 beatification is a central reason for the trip.
Benedict called Newman a "truly great Englishman" who had led an "exemplary" life as a priest. He said he hoped the beatification would inspire more people to get to know his wisdom.
Newman is a hero to many Anglicans and Catholics alike. He was one of the founders of the so-called Oxford Movement of the 1830s, which sought to revive certain Roman Catholic doctrines in the Church of England by looking back to the traditions of the earliest Christian church.
Anglicans split from Rome in 1534 when English King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment. Catholics today constitute less than 9 percent of the population in Britain.
Besides the costs, security is a concern heading into the visit. Access to the main public events will be tightly controlled, with the faithful coming in groups organized by local parishes.
It's a far cry from Pope John Paul II's 1982 visit, when anyone could show up for outdoor events, and even some of Benedict's recent travels around Europe where not even metal detectors are used for open-air Masses.
"Here, the site has to be secured and we have to know exactly who is going," noted the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Nichols has been asked repeatedly going into the visit about child sex abuse by priests, and he and the government have been criticized for the expense.
Lord Chris Patten, who is heading the government's part of the visit, has argued the government paid far more — 20 million pounds — to stage a one-day meeting of G20 finance ministers in London a year ago.
"Whenever there is a papal visit it is always preceded by criticism of the pope. Those who for all sorts of reasons feel hostile ... to the church will have their say," said Nichols, who predicted a happier mood once Benedict arrives.
But perhaps enthusiasm is less than hoped. The Catholic Herald reported Tuesday that 65,000 are expected for Newman's beatification in Birmingham, while the church earlier talked about 80,000.
Associated Press Writer Robert Barr in London contributed to this report.