Pax Christi USA moving national HQ to Washington

(CNS Photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Seeking to raise its profile on Capitol Hill and beyond, Pax Christi USA is moving its national headquarters from Erie, Pa., to Washington.

The move will allow the U.S. arm of Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace organization, to more readily address issues related to global conflicts, nuclear disarmament, justice for the world’s most vulnerable people and environmental concerns.

“We’re at a point where our voice needs to be heard on a much more national scene,” said Sister Josie Chrosniak, a member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary and chairwoman of the organization’s national council. “We need to be where it can have the most effect.

“We need to speak to people in positions that can create change in the government as well as in the church,” she told Catholic News Service from Cleveland. “As we grow and as we get stronger relationships with some of the other organizations speaking truth to power, in a sense we really need to be where they are and many are in Washington.”

Executive director Dave Robinson will continue in his position.

The organization has worked for nearly a decade to increase its Washington presence. It opened a Washington office in 2002 and more recently expanded that presence by moving to the Center of Concern and starting an internship program.

Ursuline Sister Dianna Ortiz coordinates the Washington office.

Pax Christi USA opened its national office in Erie in 1986 thanks to the support of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. While Pax Christi eventually bought its own building and expanded staff and activities as its membership grew, the location proved to be less than ideal in working with government officials and other national and international organizations.

Sister Josie said the organization is grateful for the support the Erie Benedictines offered early on and over the years.

Expect Pax Christi USA to broaden its message to include environmental concerns as well.

“Somebody has to speak to the violence that is happening to the earth. We need to … speak on how to stop that violence,” Sister Josie said.

The move is scheduled to be completed this summer.

Rooms still available for Blessed John Paul II weekend

Pope John Paul II (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

VATICAN CITY — Despite media reports that all affordable accommodations in Rome are booked for the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II, reasonable rates can still be found.

Various news outlets have reported that hostels, hotels and B&Bs are already booked for the beatification, and  that prices are skyrocketing to 300 percent their normal rates for the big May weekend.

We found that a small percentage of Roman hoteliers do seem to be exploiting Catholics with sky-high prices that are many times the regular high season rates. For example, Hotel Locarno, a four-star hotel located just across the river from the Vatican, was charging €1,560 for three nights in a double room, three times their usual high-season price, according to their website. The website of Hotel Eurostars Roma said its rate was €133 a night for a standard double room two weekends prior to the beatification, but the price jumped to more than €600 a night for the May 1 weekend.

Easter is always one of the busiest times around the Vatican. Pope John Paul’s beatification comes a week afterward and more than a million pilgrims expected for the event. The demand for lodging is extremely high, but a search of hotels and B&Bs in Rome showed that there are more than 100 reasonably priced rooms available.

For example, B&B Vatican St. Peter, located just outside Vatican City, still had availability for the evening of May 1 at €90 a night for a double room.

As of Feb. 28, the average price for a three-star hotel room for the beatification weekend was around €250 a night, and a four-star hotel room was going for €350.  Three- and four-star hotels with standard double rooms under €200 could still be found, and B&Bs in excellent locations had rooms and apartments for under €130.

For those still looking for accommodations for the event, here’s some advice to ensure that you are getting the best price:

1.) Look for locales further from the Vatican, especially across the Tiber River. Rome is easy to get around on foot and has excellent public transportation that can get you to St. Peter’s Square in no time.

2.) Don’t automatically rule out the option of staying at a B&B or renting an apartment for your stay in Rome. These can be some of the most charming places, affordable and full of character. Some require at least a four-night stay, so plan on some time to tour the Eternal City.

3.) Keep in mind that as of Jan.1, the Rome tourist tax for hotels is €1 -€3 per night, per person, for up to10 days, and must sometimes be paid in cash. Also check that other taxes are included in your room rate before booking, or ask what the final price with taxes will be.

4.) Once at your hotel, if the rate you are paying is higher than the maximum displayed tariff, which is listed on a sign posted in each room, you have a right to notify the police of the discrepancy.

5.) Consider staying in another city located outside of Rome and taking the train in to the city for the day. Rome’s main train station gives you access to a multitude of surrounding towns and trains run throughout the day.