AM MELLENSEE, Germany (AP) — Benedict XVI will not visit the Benedictine Abbey of St. Gertrud, but preparations for his trip are nevertheless in full swing, with the nuns baking thousands of communion wafers to be blessed by the pope at Masses during his September tour.
In a small room at the back of the cloister, nestled on the edge of a forest south of Berlin, Sister Theresa pulls a lever that squirts liquid dough — a simple mixture of flour and water — onto one of a dozen hot irons. These press out sheets of thin, light wafer that are cut into dozens of rounds to be weighed, packaged and delivered to Roman Catholic churches in the capital and east of Germany.
"We are very happy that our communion wafers from our bakery will be offered at the Eucharist celebration," Sister Theresa, 62, told The Associated Press.
The pope visits Germany on Sept. 22-25, arriving in Berlin and traveling through the former-communist east before wrapping up in the southwester diocese of Freiburg.
The order of 35,000 wafers for the Holy Mass, to be celebrated outside of the massive cathedral in the eastern city of Erfurt, was called in several weeks ago. Sister Theresa, assisted by Sister Placida and another woman from the village, has the wafers prepared and ready to be picked up by the postal workers for delivery.
"The wafers are already packed and will be put in the mail at the start of the month," Sister Theresa said.
Since 1938, the nuns of St. Getrud have been providing hosts to eastern Germany's Catholics — as well as some Lutheran communities.
Twelve sheets of the wafer can be baked in a span of two minutes. They are left in the open to absorb a bit of moisture overnight to prevent them from cracking when the small, circular wafers are stamped out with a drill-press.
Although the order has not yet come in for the Mass to be celebrated in Berlin's Olympic stadium, which can hold up to 70,000 people, Sister Theresa did not seem concerned.
"We could make the 70,000 possibly needed for the celebration at the Olympic stadium in a single day of baking," she said.