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L'Osservatore Romano

Pope’s Address to Benedictine Abbots

“Do not let yourselves be discouraged if the members of the monastic communities diminish in number or grow old; on the contrary, keep the zeal of your witness”

On Thursday, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the International Congress of Benedictine Abbots.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address:

* * *

Dear Father Abbots,

Dear Sisters,

With joy I give my welcome to you all. I greet the Abbot Primate Dom Notker Wolf, whom I thank for his kind words and especially for the precious service carried out in these years. After sixteen years of traveling around, I wonder: who can stop this man? Your International Congress, which sees you gathered in Rome periodically to reflect on the monastic charism received from Saint Benedict and on how to remain faithful to it in a changing world, has in this circumstance particular significance in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy. It is Christ Himself who invites us to be “merciful as the Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36); and you are privileged witnesses of this “how,” of this ‘way” of God’s merciful working. In fact, if it is only in the contemplation of Jesus Christ that one sees the merciful face of the Father (cf. Bull Misericordiae Vultus, 1) monastic life constitutes a masterful way to enjoy such a contemplative experience and to translate it in personal and community witness.

Today’s world shows ever more clearly its need of mercy; but this is not a slogan or a recipe: it is the heart of the Christian life and at the same time its concrete style, the breath that animates inter-personal relations and renders one attentive to the neediest and solidaristic with them. It is that which manifests definitively the authenticity and credibility of the message of which the Church is the depositor and herald. Well, in this time and in this Church, called to point ever more on the essential, monks and nuns guard by vocation a peculiar gift and a special responsibility: that of keeping alive the oases of the spirit, where Pastors and faithful can draw from the sources of divine mercy. Therefore, in the recent Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei quaerere, I turn to the nuns, and by extension to all monks: “May the motto ora et labotra of the Benedictine tradition, which educates to find a balanced relation between the tension towards the Absolute and commitment in daily responsibilities, between the quiet of contemplation and the alacrity of service, be again and always valid for you” (n. 32).

Seeking, with God’s grace, to live as merciful ones in your communities, you proclaim the evangelical fraternity of all your monasteries scattered in every corner of the planet; and you do so through that active and eloquent silence that lets God speak in the deafening and distracted life of the world. May the silence you observe and of which you are the custodians be the necessary “presupposition for a look of faith that receives God’s presence in your personal history, in that of brothers and sisters that the Lord gives you and in the events of the contemporary world” (Ibid., 33). Although you live separated from the world, your cloister is not sterile, rather, it is “a richness and not an impediment to communion” (Ibid., 31). Your work, in harmony with prayer, renders you participants in the creative work of God and makes you “solidaristic with the poor who cannot live without working” (Ibid., 32). With your typical hospitality, you can encounter the hearts of the most lost and distant, of those who find themselves in a grave condition of human and spiritual poverty. Your commitment for the formation and education of youth is also very appreciated and highly qualified. May the students of your schools, through study and your testimony of life, be able to become experts in that humanism that emanates from the Benedictine Rule. And your contemplative life is also a privileged channel to nourish communion with brethren of the Oriental Churches.

May the occasion of the International Congress reinforce your Federation, so that the service of communion and cooperation between the monasteries is always greater and better. Do not let yourselves be discouraged if the members of the monastic communities diminish in number or grow old; on the contrary, keep the zeal of your witness, also in those countries that today are more difficult, with fidelity to the charism and the courage to found new communities. Your service to the Church is very precious. In our time there is also need of men and women that place nothing before the love of Christ (cf. Rule of Saint Benedict, 4, 21; 72, 11), may they nourish themselves daily with the Word of God, may they celebrate the holy liturgy worthily, and may they work happily and actively in harmony with Creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your visit. I bless and accompany you with my prayer; and please, you too pray for me, I need it. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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