Engelsk katolsk præst fortæller om sine oplevelser på Via Francigena, hvor entre til de større kirker åbenbart er reglen og ikke undtagelsen.
Undertegnede har i flere indlæg her på siden vendt mig kraftigt imod den omsiggribende praksis med at kræve entre til større katolske kirker (katedraler) i Spanien. Hvis de lokale biskopper ønsker museer og ikke kirker, så afkrist kirkerne og lav dem til museer og læs messer i andre kirker i stedet. Kirker er bederum, som altid bør være gratis at besøge. er mit grundsynspunkt.
Der har i den senere tid været en større debat om entre til de spanske katedraler på den engelssprogede hjemmeside www.caminodesantiago.me, som formentlig ikke er afsluttet. I debatten har den katolske præst father Tim vendt sig kraftigt imod en hver for for entre til katolske kirker. Father Tim, der er fra East Molesey, Surrey, sydvest for London, har gået Via Francigena i Italien mod Rom og blev flere gange mødt af "kirkepolitiet", der krævede betaling, når han ville til messe eller i en kirke for at bede. Han har skrevet dette indlæg på www.caminodesantiago.me:
I am a Catholic priest, and I am never happy about paying to enter a church. Many Anglican cathedrals in UK charge, though I am not aware of any Catholic cathedral or church in UK or in Ireland which does.
I avoid all churches which charge, however 'magnificent' they are. I am not the least bit averse to making a voluntary contribution. I am always happy to note that the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool (my original home) does NOT have a compulsory charge.
Walking the Via Francigena last year there were many great cathedrals which I did not visit along the way. There is no shortage of smaller and more welcoming churches. I am prepared to discuss the situation and seek entry at Mass time. I was searched by two armed army personnel and made to drink water from my bottle before I was permitted to enter for weekday Mass at the Duomo in Milan last year.
My unhappiest experience was at Siena, were I was interrogated, no other word is possible, for my reasons for seeking entry to the church for 0800 Mass on Sunday, even as the bells were ringing to summon the faithful. They were desperate to keep out people who were not coming for Mass (which was 'free'). A totally unironic sign outside the cathedral announced that it was 'closed' on Sunday morning - because of liturgy. It would be open after Masses had finished. And the default assumption seemed to be that I was likely to be 'cheating' my way in.
The website for Siena Cathedral lists the following who are allowed free entry.
Children up to the age of 6
Visitors either born or resident in the Municipality of Siena
Handicapped visitors with one caregiver
Clerics of both genders
Students enrolled at the Università di Siena or at the Università per Stranieri
Parish groups from the Archdiocese of Siena with an accompanying letter from their parish priest
I would NEVER seek free entry on the basis that I am a cleric, (although I have to say I am a cleric of only one gender, not both!)
It saddens me that the list does not include the advice that free entry is available to "poor people". While they are excluded, I will not go.
It saddens Pope Francis also who has said In Evangelii Gaudium:
46. A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it.
47. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
I am aware of the cost of upkeep of churches.
My happiest experience was at the wonderful Abbey of San Magno in Fondi on the Francigena del Sud. A monastery and refugio open all hours (literally 24/7), with no resident community and a note at the gate, "Entra Ti Aspettavamo". (Come in, we have been expecting you.) The sign was in Italian and Arabic.