THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Processing power in the pews: How a Madrid church has got with the times

The San Antón place of worship in the Chueca neighborhood is going high tech

A priest uses his iPad in the church’s confessional, located next to one of the four TV screens that have been installed in the church.
A priest uses his iPad in the church’s confessional, located next to one of the four TV screens that have been installed in the church.jaime villanueva

The church of San Antón, an 18th-century place of worship in Madrid’s fashionable Chueca district, is planning to reach out to the local community through an ambitious plan using the latest technology.

The church, best-known for its annual blessing of animals each Saint Anthony’s day (January 17), has installed television screens, WiFi and smartphone charging points, and is even developing an iPad application that will let the congregation confess via their tablet computer.

The church is developing an iPad application that will let the congregation confess via their tablet computer

The project began a month ago after the Archbishopric of Madrid handed the running of the church over to the Messengers of Peace foundation, a charity that works with homeless people, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups in society, providing food and shelter.

The church, which is now open 24-hours a day, has also installed a donation machine that dispenses small boxes telling benefactors that their money will be spent, for example, on five kilograms of rice. In keeping with its animal-loving tradition, dogs are allowed into the church now, and there is even a canine drinking trough in the entrance.

Reflecting the Messengers of Peace’s tradition of providing food and shelter, the church offers coffee and biscuits in return for a small contribution. A washroom has also been installed to encourage visitors, says the charity’s spokeswoman, Ana de la Calle: “The idea is that you leave what you can and take what you need.”

The TV screens will broadcast special events, such as papal Masses, and even “YouTube videos about the life of Jesus”

In a bid to further integrate the church into the local community, it will be hosting exhibitions and even wine tasting. The TV screens that have been installed will broadcast special events, such as papal Masses, and even “videos about the life of Jesus.”

Carmen Alonso a 78-year-old who lives nearby says she is “very happy” the church is reaching out to its parishioners. “I’m particularly pleased about them allowing dogs in to Mass: I have a pooch and will be bringing him from now on,” she says.

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