The recent visit of Pope Francis has been are markably hot topic in news media because of his reformist ideas, which emphasize good works rather than punishments and prohibitions. Whether we approve of his ideas or not, whether we admire the Church, despise it, or don’t care, we can at least support its attitude toward wine and beer. Not only is wine drinking a part of Catholic ritual as is true for other religions, but wine making is uniquely part of its tradition and continues to be important.

This summer the Fraternite of Notre Dame,a Catholic religious order of women outside of Chicago, submitted an application to McHenry County to build a brewery and winery, whose income would support a nursing home, hospice,and boarding school on their 95-acre site at Marengo.

The neighbors were not happy though, and800 signed a petition against the development.Lauren Eads, who wrote the story for The Drinks Business magazine, quoted the dismayed nuns,“They don’t understand how ‘God’s work’ could be fought so vigorously.” At last report, the battle was still raging, but the idea that making wine and beer is “God’s work” is one that most of us can embrace, regardless of our religious persuasion or lack of it.

In the same article, Eads writes about a group of Trappist monks, the Brothers of St. Joseph’s Abby in Massachusetts, who set up a brewery outside of Boston. In Vina California, a Cistercian order of Benedictines is growing grapes and making Syrah.

No doubt, anyone who has visited Napa,has toured venerable Christian Brothers Winery,established and run by Brother Timothy between 1945 and 1989. Today, it is the site of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.While not exactly common, similar winemaking establishments exist in the U.S, run by Catholic religious communities to support themselves and their work.

Wineries operated by the Church have always been prevalent in Europe, but a recent article in Wine News & Features from the AFP news agency indicates that the activity is taking on a new dimension. The Catholic Church has opened a bar in Northern France. Bar Canain Lille launched this summer to reach out to young people who might be happier meeting at a bar instead of at church. The bar is named for the first miracle of Jesus, turning water into wine at a marriage celebration.“

The project took two years of planning applications and a financial kick-start from the Church,” the article reports. Naturally, all thebeer and wine is made at Catholic abbeys and monasteries, and profits go to humanitarian projects in poor areas. As the article points out,“The bar does focus more on the ‘good works’ end of religion, rather than the ‘thou shalt not’ side.” Thank you, Pope Francis.