Building Pope's alter in Lisbon
Building work cracks on in Lisbon as event is now only 100 days away. Photo: António Cotrim/ Lusa

Pope’s altar-stage for World Youth Day comes dramatically down in price… and height

Marcelo praises “efforts made by everyone” to lop millions off final bill

Even before the ‘new solutions’ to World Youth Day have been revealed, President Marcelo has told reporters that exorbitant cost of the principal ‘altar stage’ (to be constructed by Mota Engil in a directly awarded contract) is to come down by more than half.

Instead of €7 million, it will be €2.9 million (…) It needed to come down”, he stressed, citing “these difficult times, of war, inflation. “I am very satisfied by the effort made by everyone to reduce the cost to much less than half”.

And by effort, he cited “the press, lots of people… Portuguese society”.

This price reduction almost certainly would not have happened if no-one had registered concern over it.

As it was, there was a veritable outcry, in spite of assurances by Lisbon mayor Carlos Moedas that any investment in the event was certain to bring return, many times over.

When first presented, the altar-stage was described as a construction nine-metres high with capacity for 2,000 people. These were broken down into 1,000 bishops, 300 concelebrants, 200 choir members, 30 sign language interpreters, 90 orchestra members, staff and technical team. The original plan included two lifts and a central staircase, in an implementation area of 5,000 square meters (equivalent to half a football field).

The original maquette presented for the Pope’s altar stage

The new plan is for a much-reduced stage on all levels. The original height – designed for the Pope to be ‘able to be seen’ from a distance of 3 kms – has been lopped by five metres. The overall area goes down from 5,000 sq metres to 3,250 sq metres, and the number of people to be accommodated from 2,000 to 1,250. Even so, there is still a degree of politcal back-biting and grumbling. News reports say PS councillors on Lisbon City Council still believe mayor Carlos Moedas is ‘hiding details’ – and the Church, through president of the World Youth Day foundation Américo Aguiar, has said it feels “hurt that people think we are all thieves and confidence tricksters”.

World Youth Day, explain reports, is considered to be the largest event of the Catholic Church. It is held every two years in different countries, Lisbon having been the choice for this year’s edition taking place in Lisbon between August 1-6.

Over 1.5 ‘pilgrims’ are expected, and the costs of travel to Portugal and accommodation for that week have  already skyrocketed.

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