Those wanting to see Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain this week have been asked to make a ‘financial contribution’ to attend masses to help make up a shortfall in funding.

When they go to the events, they will also be urged to buy t-shirts, baseball caps and tea cups commemorating the visit, as the Catholic Church's marketing arm swings into action.

The Church is asking for £25 (€30) per head to attend the open-air mass in Birmingham on September 19, the final day of the visit.

The contribution is slightly lower for the mass in Glasgow on Thursday, at £20, and entry to the prayer vigil in London on Saturday is £5.

All the prices include transport to the venues and a ‘pilgrim pack’ -- a bag containing a CD and a booklet about the visit.

While asking for payment to attend a papal mass is believed to be unprecedented, the Catholic Church has denied it amounts to an entrance fee.

‘Those contributions only cover the costs of the transport and the security provisions,’ said Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England.

‘It includes their travel so it's not as if it is a payment to go to mass.’

The funding of the first ever state visit by a pope to Britain is expected to cost around £20m and has attracted controversy as taxpayers are footing £10 to £12m of the bill.

That leaves a £10m shortfall for the Catholic Churches in England, Scotland and Wales to pick up, of which £6m has already been raised through a public appeal for funds.

The ‘financial contributions’ to attend the masses will make up the rest.

More than three quarters of Britons are against meeting even half the cost of the visit, according to a poll by public theology think tank Theos this month.

The contentious cost will be one of the focuses of the multi-issue demonstration planned for Saturday in London's Hyde Park.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said the visit was a ‘waste of enormous sums of taxpayers' money’ at a time when Britain is about to embark on deep cuts in public spending.

But for the truly committed, a host of souvenirs are on sale, ranging from a gold medallion emblazoned with the official logo of the visit for a hefty £775 to a t-shirt picturing Benedict with outstretched arms for £18.

It comes as a poll suggests that British Catholics are confident that the pope’s visit will help the church there, but the sex abuse scandal has shaken their faith in him.

The BBC survey of 500 Catholics also revealed that British believers are more liberal than the pope, with almost half backing a relaxing of the rules on clerical celibacy and a majority wanting a larger role for women in the church.

Some 52% of those questioned by ComRes between 6-9 September said the worldwide scandal over sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy had shaken their faith in the church's leadership.

However, 70% thought the pope's four-day visit to England and Scotland, which begins on Thursday, would help the Catholic Church in Britain, an officially Anglican country.

A further 57% said their faith was not generally valued by British society, while 30% said it was and 13% did not know.

The poll also revealed significant support for the pope to drop his insistence on clerical celibacy - 49% said the rule should be relaxed, although 35% supported the rule and 17% were uncommitted.

In addition, 62% of respondents said women should have more authority and status in the Catholic church.

Protests are being planned for the pope's visit because of his stance on women, homosexuals and contraception.

He has also faced criticism for his response to the abuse scandal, although supporters say he has a good record on dealing with the issue.

‘Overall there is a sense of strong support for the pope's visit but disquiet both about some aspects of Papal teaching and the perception of the Catholic Church in wider society having been harmed,’ ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins told the BBC.