The following comes from a March 28 AFP article by Don Kavanagh:

A bar being run by the Catholic Church might sound like the setting for a lame Irish joke, but it’s not Irish and it’s no joke.

AFP reports that a bar recently opened in northern France with the backing of the Catholic Church. Bar Cana in Lille launched this month as part of an effort to reach out to younger people, who might be more willing to interact in a bar on a Saturday night than in church on Sunday morning.

“It is, at heart, an effort to reach young people and those who have never had the idea of entering a church. And perhaps it is easier to go into a bar,” said Benjamin Florin a 29-year-old Lille diocesan worker who was one of the initiators of the project.

Bar Cana was inspired by the Pope, who has told the church to think outside the square when it comes to going about its pastoral business and this is certainly a left-field idea. It took two years of planning applications and a financial kick-start from the church to get started, but customers have seen it as a blessing.

The bar has one full-time employee and a dozen volunteers who will be serving food, slinging drinks and performing the traditionally sacred bartender service of offering a friendly ear, presumably in lieu of an official confession session.

“They will be there mainly for talking to people, if they wish, and for listening,” explained Régis Héaulme, a deacon and president of the Bar Cana Association.

There are nods to traditional Catholicism throughout the bar: the wifi password is Deo Gratias (God be thanked), and a carafe of house wine is referred to as a Madonna. Above the beer pumps (all the beers come from abbeys and monasteries, naturally) is a figurine of Pope Francis, and Biblical verses adorn the walls.

While it might not sound like the sort of place to hit up for a raging Friday night, the bar does focus more on the “good works” end of religion, rather than the “thou shalt not” side. Patrons come in and buy two coffees and get one; the other is paid forward for someone who can’t afford one. And the profits from the operation go towards humanitarian projects in needy areas.