LONDON: Britain used £1.85 million ($3 million) from its foreign aid budget to help pay for the pope's state visit last year, lawmakers revealed on Thursday.

A parliamentary committee unveiled the “somewhat surprising” use of the money in a report analysing the annual accounts of the Department for International Development (DfID).

A DfID spokesman defended the move, saying that the contribution recognised the Catholic Church's work in development and in any case was taken from a separate budget to official development assistance. However, the National Secular Society said the use of foreign aid money was “disgraceful” and accused the pope of taking food from the mouths of the world's poor “in order to ride around in purpose built cars”.

The money represents a significant chunk of the British government's costs for the trip, which were estimated in November to be about £10 million. The remainder was met by the Catholic Church. “Many people will be as surprised as we were to discover that UK aid money was used to fund the pope's visit last year,” said Malcolm Bruce, the member of parliament who chairs the international development committee.—AFP

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