News in brief.
€5 million French Catholic compensation fund for sexual abuse survivors. A conference of 120 bishops in Lourdes this week agreed to the establishment of a fund to compensate the survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in France. A recent report by an independent commission estimated that approximately 216,000 children were abused between 1950 and 2020. Survivors of abuse will be individually compensated by the Church, and bishops are planning on selling buildings and land as a symbolic gesture of contrition, and to show that compensation for abuse survivors is not coming from the donations of congregations.
Belgian church sex tape. Police in Limburg, Belgium opened an investigation after a video began circulating on the internet showing a man and a woman having sex on the altar of a church in the town of Bree. The couple were identified and charged with public indecency and the distribution of pornographic material. They were found guilty and will be required to attend a course designed to get them to reflect on the impact of their actions. Prayers have been said at the church and the altar cleansed with holy water.
Currywurst and Christ. A food truck selling currywurst and french fries is spreading the Christian message in an industrial area in the Lower Saxony town of Verden, Germany. Food truck owner, Michael Zielke experienced a personal conversion 15 years ago and today shares the Gospel message through banners, leaflets and chatting with his customers. “Meet Jesus – He will fill you up.”
Spotlight on Budapest.
St Stephen’s Basilica. Named after Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), this neo-Classical church is a landmark and focal-point of Budapest’s historic centre. Consecrated in 1905, the basilica is filled with paintings and statues by renowned Hungarian artists. The “incorruptible” right hand of Saint Stephen is housed in the reliquary, which had been found in a Bosnian monastery in the 1770s and returned to Hungary by Empress Maria Theresa.
In the 1920s, Gellért Hill Church was built in a cave by a group of Pauline monks who were inspired by something similar they had seen in Lourdes. A committee raised funds for the construction, and many contractors offered building materials or worked for free; for example, the 12-meter-wide and two-and-a-half-meter-high iron lattice in front of the altar was made by 3,000 Christian Socialist iron workers from Diósgyőr. Mine workers offered time to dig out parts of the caves for the construction of the church. Architect Kálmán Lux was responsible for the design, taking inspiration from early Christian catacombs. The cave became an important centre of worship for the Paulines, an order founded in Hungary in the thirteenth century. On Easter Monday in 1951, Communist authorities arrested the monks, executed several, and closed the church, building a concrete wall in front of the entrance. The church was reconsecrated in 1991 after Communist rule came to an end. Pauline monks currently celebrate mass three times a day in the church.
Church of Our Lady is an extraordinarily striking gothic Catholic church that is commonly known as Matthias Church, after Matthias I, who in the fifteenth century restored part of the church. During the Ottoman occupation, the church was used as a mosque, and part of it was demolished so that the stones could be used elsewhere. During the reign of Franz Joseph I in the nineteenth century, the church was extensively restored, with many original features being rebuilt. The pulpit was one of the noteworthy features that came from this restoration and depicts the four evangelists and doctors of the Church.
Saint of the week: Elizabeth of Hungary
Elizabeth of Hungary was an Hungarian aristocrat who lived in Thuringia (Germany) in the thirteenth century. Inspired by Franciscan teaching, she and her husband were generous alms-givers and cared for the sick and infirm. One of the miracles associated with Saint Elizabeth was the appearance of Christ in her bed which she had given to a leper. When her husband died she became caught up in political antagonisms between aristocratic families in Thuringia, but she continued her charitable work. After her death at the age of 24, many people are reported to have been healed after visits to her grave. Her shrine became one of the main German centres of pilgrimage until the fifteenth century. Saint Elizabeth is mentioned in Charlotte Bronte’s Vilette as an example of the “deep degradation of high-born ladies, making countesses and princesses the most tormented slaves under the sun”.
On Monday 15 November from 17.00 to 18.30 CET, on the occasion of the Fifth World Day of the Poor, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) will host an online webinar “Listen to the Cry of the Poor in the context of COVID-19 and its recovery”.