Catholics to help pay Rome's bill

NORTH COAST Catholics will help foot the bill for the grand refurbishment of a guesthouse and pilgrim centre in Rome.

The Domus Australia Pilgrim Centre was opened in October and includes 32 air-conditioned rooms, conference facilities, a restaurant and a chapel.

Lismore was the only regional diocese in Australia to contribute funding to the Pilgrim Centre, with Catholics in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth also bearing the cost.

Sources outside the church have estimated the bill at between $30 million and $85 million.

According to Lismore diocesan business manager Greg Isaac the centre was created to encourage the 60,000 Australians who visit Rome each year to become pilgrims.

"Domus Australia will help change people's travels to Rome to a true spiritual journey," Mr Isaac said.

The rates are $160 to $220 per night depending on the season.

Outspoken retired Catholic priest, Father Eric Hodgens questioned the cost of the project in The Swag, the Australian journal of Catholic priests.

"Can this enormous expense be justified? The Catholics of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Lismore were not consulted," Fr Hodgens wrote.

"Who paid and was it worth it? Hard to tell. Dioceses do not publish their accounts."

The Domus Australia Centre includes a courtyard named in honour of Bishop Doyle, Lismore diocese's first bishop.

The Bishop of Lismore, Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett attended the opening of the centre with bishops from across Australia. He defended the diocese's contribution to the refurbishment.

"The Diocese of Lismore, like many other dioceses and church institutions, makes investments to make good use of its funds.

"Rome is a unique place for Catholics, and Domus Australia represents also a spiritual investment as a pilgrimage house for Australian visitors to the eternal city."


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