July 2021 #02 — Pope to visit Slovakia. Antwerp’s Pilgrim’s Table. Spotlight on Rome

News in Brief.

Pope in hospital for scheduled surgery. The pope underwent scheduled colon surgery on Sunday 4 July at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, and is expected to spend a week in hospital recovering.

Churches call for renewed international commitment on poverty. In a statement to the UN Human Rights Council, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Council of Churches (WCC), and ACT Alliance have called for increased efforts to combat inequality, hunger and human suffering, in particular urging countries to adopt social security measures to help protect people from extreme poverty. They also called for the international community to support a Global Fund for Social Protection.

Pope to visit Slovakia and Budapest in September. The Vatican announced that the pope will visit Slovakia on 12-15 September, after a brief stop in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. The stop in Budapest on the morning of 12 September is because the pope will lead a Mass to close the 52nd Eucharistic Congress.

Archaeologists uncover 1000-year-old church near Eisleben, Germany. The large church in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, was described by the team of archaeologists as “a wonderful, extraordinarily huge church, which demonstrates the importance of this place in the Ottoman Empire.” The cathedral is thought to have been devoted to Saint Radegund, Thuringian princess and Frankish queen who founded the Abbey of the Holy Cross in Poitiers in 968.

Antwerp’s “Pilgrim Table” is recognised. The centuries-old tradition of the Pilgrim Table at the chapel of the Sint-Julianusgasthuis has been given recognition as Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Flemish government, in a move that is hoped will lay the basis for recognition by Unesco. The Sint-Julianusgasthuis was founded in 1305 by Ida van der List-van Wijneghem and Canon Jan Tuclant to provide a refuge for pilgrims. On Maundy Thursday each year twelve men are invited to eat a meal featuring fish and shellfish in remembrance of the last supper of Jesus.

Renovation project for “Reconciliation Chapel”. In France, Christian Albecker of the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine and Bishop Jochen Cornelius-Bundschuh of the Protestant Church in Baden, launched renovations of the Chapelle de la Rencontre, a small chapel built in 1948 near Strasbourg as a symbol of reconciliation between Germany and France.

Spotlight on Rome.

Rome is of course famous for the Vatican and St Paul’s Cathedral, but this week we take a look at some of the Protestant churches in the Eternal City. 

St Paul’s Within the Walls (Via Nazionale, 16a, 00184 Rome). Also known as the American Church in Rome, is a church of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Designed by English architect George Edmund Street (1824–1881) in Gothic Revival style, it was the first purpose-built Protestant church to be built in Rome. Completed in 1880, the church has several large-scale mosaics by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones.

There had been Protestant Episcopal services in Rome since the mid-nineteenth century, and in 1859 Revd William Chauncey Langdon arrived with the purpose of forming a church. In the same year, American citizens of various denominations founded an Episcopal Church that became known as Grace Church, and in 1866, Grace Church began to use a granary outside Porta del Popolo as its first church building (It was “outside the walls”). In 1870, Rome ceased to be governed by the Vatican and Italy’s new constitution allowed freedom of worship, and for the first time allowed non-Roman Catholic churches within the walls of the city. Less than two weeks after this announcement, Grace Church began fundraising to build a church “within the walls.” The name of Grace Chapel was changed in 1871 to St. Paul’s Within the Walls, and in 1872, the church bought land on the present site on Via Nazionale. Building work began, with the cornerstone being laid on the feast of St. Paul, 25 January 1873. The present-day St. Paul’s Within the Walls houses the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC), founded in 1982 as a day center for refugees in the heart of Rome.

All Saints Anglican Church (Via del Babuino, 153, 00187 Rome) was also designed by English architect, George Edmund Street. The origins of the Anglican church are linked to the American church through their shared origins in the Granary chapel. The Anglican church used the Granary chapel until 1874, when the Municipality of Rome needed to demolish the granary building to make space for transport infrastructure. At around this time, Revd Henry Watson Wasse became the Anglican chaplain, and he helped initiate an ambitious project to build a permanent Anglican church. The first service was held in the new church building on Easter Sunday 10 April 1887.

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Via XX Settembre, 7 00187 Rome). Thanks to Rome’s position on the Grand Tour, the city saw sizeable numbers of Scottish visitors from the mid-nineteenth century. The Scottish Presbyterian church began in the early 1860s with a small group of Scots and American Presbyterians who met in the neighbourhood of the Spanish Steps. A first building was opened in 1871 near the Porta Flaminia. The present building, about halfway between the Piazza della Repubblica and the Palazzo del Quirinale, was opened in early 1885. Because planning permission for the new Presbyterian church was granted only on condition that the building not from the outside look like a church, the church looks similar in architecture to the Italian government ministries on the same street.

Saint of the week.

The feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church on 11 July. St Benedict lived in the fifth century and founded several monastic communities. He also authored the Rule, which established principles for monastic communities that are still used today.
After abandoning his studies, Benedict lived as a hermit in the mountains outside Rome. The events between Benedict adopting this hermit lifestyle and establishing his famous monastic community in Monte Cassino were dramatic. Following the death of the abbot of a nearby monastery, the monks there asked Benedict to become their abbot. This did not turn out well and the monks tried to poison Benedict. He, however, prayed a blessing over the poisoned cup and it shattered. Then a local priest tried to poison him with bread, but he prayed a blessing over the bread, and a raven took the loaf away.
These an other miracles secured Benedict’s spiritual reputation, and people flocked to learn from him. In around 530 he founded the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, between Rome and Naples. In spite of the previous murderous attempts on his life, Benedict lived for several more years, and died, not of poison, but of a fever.
Benedict wrote the Rule for monastic communities in 516. Whilst the Rule covers many aspects of monastic life, it is perhaps best known for outlining the daily pattern Benedictine monks and nuns follow, namely eight hours of prayer, eight hours of sleep, and eight hours of manual work, sacred reading and/or works of charity. In 1964, Benedict was named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI.

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