The Pope and the Timeliness of St. Benedict's Rule

Interview With Father Notker Wolf, Abbot Primate

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ROME, MAY 31, 2005 ( Benedict XVI already has enabled the world to rediscover the timeliness of the Rule of St. Benedict, says Father Notker Wolf, abbot primate of the Confederated Benedictines.

The order which was founded in the sixth century is dedicated today to the celebration of the liturgy, care of souls, missions, study, art, education of youth and the media insofar as it is compatible with monastic life. The order counts 7,860 monks, including 4,139 priests.

Father Wolf talked about the new Pope with ZENIT.

Q: What was your first impression when you heard that the new Pope was called Benedict XVI?

Abbot Wolf: I was in the Monastery of Tepeyac, in Mexico, and I followed the events on television there. We were very surprised and happy when we heard his name.

Q: How has the Benedictine presence in Bavaria influenced the new Pope, either at the theological level or in the choice of his name?

Abbot Wolf: The experience he had with the Benedictines in Bavaria seems to have had a real influence. He himself thought of entering a Benedictine monastery. There are 17 Benedictine convents in Bavaria.

The Bavarian mentality is very much influenced by the Benedictines. In the last years the Pope did his annual Spiritual Exercises in the Benedictine Abbey of Scheyern.

In fact, on several occasions he has quoted a phrase of the Benedictine Rule: “Christo omnino nihil praeponant — put absolutely nothing before Christ.” Christ is the center of our life, Christ is the salvation of the world.

Q: Benedictines have a dynamic organization: They are not centralized, and give great freedom to each monastery. Do you think the Pope will be inspired by this model to decentralize the Church?

Abbot Wolf: St. Benedict asks the abbot to exercise authority, but he excludes authoritarianism. When an important question must be addressed, all must be heard. The abbot makes the decision only afterward.

We know that, at meetings, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would let everyone speak and he knew how to listen. I wouldn’t be surprised if he delegates much and if he promotes the principle of subsidiarity.

He himself has said that a universal Church should not be directed in a centralized manner. He will respect the local Churches without endangering the unity of the Church.

Q: How can St. Benedict inspire the Europe of today?

Abbot Wolf: Through his Rule and his monks, St. Benedict transmitted to the West stability and a new culture at a time of great changes.

In an age like ours, which is also characterized by great changes, his principles should also indicate the path to the future, to which belong, among others, common responsibility before God, respect for the dignity of the person, integration of the individual person in the community and a just measure in conduct, in the area of laws and their application.

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