Abbey in Senegal Gets Pontifical Academies' Award

John Paul II Also Honors Italian Film Director Ermanno Olmi

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2004 ( John Paul II awarded the Pontifical Academies’ Prize to a Benedictine abbey of Senegal which has successfully combined the Church’s liturgical musical tradition with African culture.

The Pope also bestowed an award on Italian film director Ermanno Olmi for establishing a cinematographic school based on «authentic humanism.»

The award-winning Benedictine Abbey Keur Moussa (, located 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Dakar, was founded by monks of the French Abbey of Solesmes.

The Holy Father explained, in his address today during the award ceremony in the Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, that the religious «have listened to the traditions of Africa, preserving faithfully, at the same time, the patrimony received from the tradition of the Church.»

Keur Moussa’s candidacy was proposed by the Pontifical Academy of the Virtuosi of the Pantheon and presented to the Coordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies by Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The Prize of the Pontifical Academies, which was received by Father Ange-Marie Niouky, abbot of Keur Moussa, is awarded every year to a person or institution that has been distinguished for its contribution to the development of the religious sciences, of Christian humanism, and its artistic expressions.

Founded in 1961, the Keur Moussa Abbey seeks to offer Senegalese Christians the possibility to embrace Benedictine monastic life and to witness to non-Christians — most of the population in the region is Muslim — the monastic life of prayer and work. Today the community has 40 members, two-thirds of them Senegalese.

In the first years after the foundation, the monks also set up a medical clinic, now managed by nuns, and a primary school and social assistance center, managed by lay people, who have a close relationship with the abbey.

The Holy Father also conferred the Pontificate’s Medal «to the cinematographic school ‘Hypothesis Cinema,'» founded and run Ermanno Olmi, «for its pedagogy based on authentic humanism,» he said in his address. The address was read during the ceremony by an aide.

Olmi has directed internationally successful films such as «Cantando Dietro i Paraventi» (2003), «Il Mestiere delle Armi» (2001), «La Genesi — La Creazione e il Diluvio» (1994), «La Leggenda del Santo Bevitore» (1998).

Olmi founded Hypothesis Cinema («Ipotesi Cinema» in Italian) over 20 years ago, in response to young people’s wish to participate in the shooting of his films. More than a school of cinema, he considers it a «school of life.»

This institution enables young people to film events of their daily life and then pose questions about life.

The Holy Father also gave the Pontificate’s Medal to Rome’s Interuniversity Choir, directed by Massimo Palombella, «for the service offered to divine worship and musical culture.»

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