VILNIUS, Lithuania, JULY 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Lithuania will once again be able to hear the Gregorian chant of Benedictines, who had been expelled during repeated religious persecutions.
At the initiative of the French Abbey of Solesmes, whose plainsong is regarded worldwide as the epitome of Gregorian chant, the first group of Benedictines returned to Lithuania in 1998.
The monks chose a picturesque spot in the district of Kelme, in northwestern Lithuania, and began the construction of the monastery in 2000.
The inauguration of the new monastery of Palendriai took place June 7, with the consecration of St. Benedict’s Church.
Bishop Eugenius Bartulis of Siauliai and Abbot Dom Philippe Dupont, president of the Benedictine Congregation of Solesmes, which founded this new community in Lithuania, presided over the liturgical ceremony.
The celebration began with a procession toward the church’s doors, while the Latin choral “Urbs Beata Jerusalem” was intoned.
Stanislaus Valius, president of the construction company that built the monastery, handed the church’s keys to the abbot. This was followed immediately by the liturgical ceremony for the consecration of the church, highlighted by a Mass presided over by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Peter Stephen Zurbriggen.
In addition to Bishop Bartulis, the Mass was concelebrated by five other Lithuanian bishops, as well as the prior of the new monastery — Father Hervé de Broc — and Benedictine abbots of France and Spain.
The church will be open to the public for Masses and the recitation of the liturgical hours. The guesthouse is in a separate building. Guests wishing to make spiritual retreats are welcome.
The first Benedictine monastery in Lithuania was built by Grand Duke Vytautas the Great at the start of the 15th century, in his former capital of Trakai. Two centuries of persecution of the Catholic Church by the Russian czars, followed by the Soviet regime, devastated Lithuania’s numerous religious orders.