Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pope Francis and Lunch: Luxury Versus Simplicity or Legionaries Versus Franciscans?

(Jersualem) Pope Francis was in Jerusalem on monday.  Despite the crowded program some media, including Katholisches, found it newsworthy that the Catholic Church's leader participated instead of the agreed lunch, unexpectedly decided  to visit at a branch of the Franciscan Custody and to eat there. The incident was interpreted as "more a gesture of simplicity," which "defines the pontificate." 
Lunch for Francis and his entourage was envisaged in the program to take place at  Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center near the Damascus Gate on the edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. Media did report that the Pope had refused to eat there because the Notre Dame Center is a luxury hotel. But he was craving for simplicity, which is why he went to the Franciscans, who, surprised by the unexpected visit, lined up "quickly another plate".
Luxury opposed to simplicity? Or Legionaries of Christ against the Franciscans?
The Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center is located just outside the Jerusalem city walls, within the Custody.  Nevertheless, it is little more than a stone's throw from one place to another. The program of the journey, if not designed in any case by the Pope, was presented to him in detail.  The place of lunch was also unopposed. Which hint was apparently whispered by someone   to the Pope during the trip, is not known. The Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, a major presence in the Latin Church in the city is presently, in any event, run by the Catholic Order of the Legion of Christ. That gets closer to an explanation of the papal program change.

Notre Dame Center Founded in 1885 for French pilgrims

In 1885 to care for the increasing number of pilgrims who came to the Holy Land,  construction of the pilgrim house WAS begun. The initiative came from the French pilgrims, which is why the hospice was  supervised initially by the French Order of the Assumption. Both from the Ottoman Empire and after 1948, by Israel, the Order would get a confirmation of its rights. The history of the pilgrim center reflects the dramatic history of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In the Israeli-Arab war of 1948 it was badly damaged in the fighting. In one part of the pilgrim hospice Israel established a military outpost, while in other parts, numerous Christian Arab families were admitted who had become refugees. The Assumptionists tried to persevere in spite of the difficult conditions and to offer an open house for only few pilgrims. The situation, however, the flow of pilgrims was so meagre,  and the maintenance cost too high, that the Assumptionists had to give up and the pilgrim house in 1972 which it bequeathed to the Holy See.
This began in 1973, thanks to the donations of American Catholics with the renovation of the hospice. In 1978, the leaders of all seven Catholic rites gathered  in Jerusalem,  so the pilgrim center of Pope John Paul II was elevated to the rank of Pontifical Institute.

Safe Haven for Oppressed Christians of the Holy Land

During the first Intifada was the Notre Dame Center an important focal point for the local Christian families and in general for the Palestinian people, its social and economic situation deteriorated dramatically. To help them, a school for Palestinian youth was opened in one part of the center.  Many Arab families whose houses were demolished by the Israeli military in and around Jerusalem found refuge in the aftermath  in the Pilgrim House. Christians of Jerusalem found mainly work and thus a livelihood for their families at the hospice. As during the Intifada and the Gulf War the pilgrims returning back and the house could not be run  economically, the former director, Monsignor Richard Mathes, succeeded in obtainin gat the same time to mobilize the cultural attaché of the Vatican in Israel,  foreign donations to continue to pay the salaries for the employees and to secure the operation of the house. After 1991, the situation calmed down and the house could be self-sustaining. In 1998 Monsignor Mathes  ended twenty years of fruitful work in Jerusalem. The continued existence of the house seemed at this time secured by the calmer waters.
In 2000 the second intifada broke out. The pilgrims dropped  off abruptly. The situation was so difficult that the house in 2001 had to close in winter. It reopened after half a year with the start of the "pilgrimage season" in 2002, yet  the hospice struggles because of the small number of pilgrims to Jerusalem continues and could only be supported by foreign donations. To ensure the survival of the house and "ensure it stability and continuity" John Paul II entrusted the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center to the Legionares of Christ in November 2004 with a motu proprio.

To ensure continuity, in 2004 transferred the Legionaries of Christ

The political situation stabilized, the pilgrims came again, and the Legionaries could carry out extensive renovations.The Center now consists of a modern guest house, a church that serves the pilgrims and the pastoral care of the Jerusalem's Christians, a training center for Palestinian youth and a permanent exhibition, "Who is the man on the grave cloth?" on the Shroud of Turin. The Center also holds various offices and departments of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem where they housed their headquarters shortly before the Pope's visit, when  it had become the target the  incitement of anti-Christian actions by radical Jews. Perhaps one reason for solidarity?
Whether the guest house is more luxurious than comparable pilgrim hospices of the Holy Land, such as that of the Franciscans in Bethlehem, pilgrims may decide for themselves. It is certain that it is of course new and well maintained because of the recent  renovations effected by the Legionaries of Christ.
The presence of the Franciscans will soon be 800 years old. More Latin facilities in the Holy Land emerged only in the second half of the 19th century. The Pilgrim Centre Notre Dame is one of the oldest of them.

Papal grasp of what matters and what does not

In Rome there is, not so much kept away by   the alleged "luxury" it was the Pope Francis from the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centers, but the desire, not in to be in the   proximity to Marcial Maciel Degollado,  less than honorable founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The Order now has brilliantly mastered the umbilical cord of the 2008 brought on by the late founder and has a new beginning, but Pope Francis has a keen sense of what has traction (not only in the media) and what does not. An indirect proximity to Maciel Degollado, who was present at the ceremony end of 2004in Rome when Pope John Paul II gave the Legion the Jerusalem pilgrim hospice, would not necessarily be useful.  A certain distance from the Legionaries of Christ would, however honest, be beneficial according to the same logic. Thus, the Franciscans of the Custody received an unexpected papal visit around 1 O'clock on   May 26th which n any case made them very happy.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
image: Infovaticana / Wikimedia
Trans: Tancred vekron99@hotmail.com
AMGD

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

And why was it put into the itinerary in the first place then?? Looks like more PR games.

Woody said...

Notre Dame is a beautiful place where I have stayed several times. It is not a luxury hotel, there are no TVs in the rooms for starters, and most of the rooms, certainly the ones in which I stayed, are small, nicely laid out, but not at all at a luxury level. In many respects it is more like a retreat center, with a very beautiful chapel, Masses, Exposition and Benediction every day, and the like. The rooftop restaurant is high class, no doubt, but we pilgrims always eat in the multi-table dining room which serves buffet style, good food, for sure, but not like a five star hotel.

CJ said...

Maybe it is rice and beans that put the pot on our portly pope.

Damask Rose said...

One wonders if the Legionaries were upset at the snub. Maciel's no longer around (and he kissed Don Michele De Paolis hand (...forgot, De Paolis is pro-homosexual, not abusive...), so even if the Pope took flak for staying at Notre Dame, he'd defend the renewed order, yes? The Legionaries are also his priestly sons after all. And even if the Legionaries have a reputation of wealth, what of it? If it wasn't for the nobles of old, paying for the construction of a church here, paying for the establishment of a monastery there, the Catholic Church wouldn't have some of its remarkable and fine edifices today. In other places, people have scraped their pennies together to erect their Victorian churches. This is how the world works. Besides, isn't it good manners to eat the meal the host prepares for you? What was that quote about Jesus eating with certain people again? By no means, do I wish to hurt the Legionaries or Regnum Christi's feelings, by implication of the quote, no, not at all, but it's all getting a bit much, predictable and silly really.

This is all getting petty and boring... and your average middle-classes and above could stop funding the Church.

Fascinating history regarding the Notre Dame Centre. Beautiful building. I'm really proud it was built to house, well, us; pilgrims to the Holy Land and that the Centre has helped local Christians too. We need to be proud of our patrimony.

Woody said...

For a really good history of Notre Dame, see this paper, not necessarily written by a traditional Catholic (maybe not Catholic at all), but still full of interesting lore: http://bcrfj.revues.org/4122

Note the discussion of the French pilgrimages in the last XIXth Century as being especially penitential in character; this kind of thing, sadly, seems to get lost in the translation in today's accounts (the same is true for the history of Sacre Couer in Paris).

Woody said...

last part of the XIXth Century, I meant to say...

Woody said...

Sacre Coeur, of course, pardon my (lack of) French.

Damask Rose said...

Thank you, Woody.

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