The Italian Religious Hospitality initiative has helped more than 300,000 people find a spiritual vacation stay.
The Rule of St. Benedict is clear: Monks are to welcome all guests as if they are welcoming Christ Himself.
Benedictines and members of other religious orders are doing a lot more welcoming this summer. According to the Italian daily La Stampa, religious houses have seen a dramatic rise in the number of guests in recent years, thanks in part to a new website that helps seekers find a spiritual place to go on vacation.
Over 300,000 housing requests have passed through the online portal of Ospitalità Religiosa Italiana (Italian Religious Hospitality). The number doubled between 2017 and 2018.
Fabio Rocchi, president of Ospitalità Religiosa Italiana, said that the non-profit association provides overnight accommodations in convents, monasteries, sanctuaries, parish houses, hotels, campgrounds, and hostels made available by religious institutes. Every year, more and more tourists choose a religious house “for a holiday characterized by a spiritual experience.”
The ORI site has 3,500 accommodations to choose from, for a total of 232,000 beds. Locations range from the Alps to the Rivieras. The accommodations are managed by parishes, dioceses and congregations whose objective is “to spread a message of community to people away from home.”
For example, there’s “The Rosary” in Rome, managed by the Suore di Carità Domenicane della Presentazione, or the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation.
“We offer a nook in the Eternal City where you can rest comfortably and grow spiritually, through prayer, silence, acceptance, spiritual dialogue, and religious-tourist orientation,” said Sister Speranza Patino. This summer, the sisters expect nearly 2,000 guests, many of them young people and students. They seek a place of “peace, silence and prayer,” said Sister Speranza.
Vacationers can use various filters on the portal to find a suitable place to stay, but then they must contact the religious house directly to make arrangements. For travelers with financial constraints, ORI can arrange for free stays under an initiative called “Merciful Hospitality.” Many houses open their doors for “those who really need to break away from the difficult reality in which they live for a few days, but who don’t have the economic means,” said Rocchi. The project has offered 35,000 nights to poor people. The idea was born three years ago, during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and was much appreciated by Pope Francis, the website says.
Also, after the earthquake in Central Italy on August 24, 2016, ORI located about 600 beds in religious accommodations near the epicenter for displaced families.
And ORI found over 100 beds for ex-prisoners coming to Rome for the Jubilee for Prisoners with Pope Francis, on November 6, 2016.