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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pope tells Benedictines that monasteries are oases of mercy

At noon today, in the Sala Clementina at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the International Congress of Benedictine Abbots.

Speech of His Holiness, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the 
International Congress of Benedictine Abbots and Abbesses

Dear Father Abbots,
Dear Sisters,

I welcome all of you with joy.  I greet the Abbot Primate, Dom Notker Wolf, who I thank for his courteous words and above all for the precious service offered during these past years.  After sixteen years at his post, I wonder: who can stop this man?  Your International Congress, which regularly brings you to Rome to reflect on the monastic charism received from Saint Benedict and how you can remain faithful to it in a changing world, has special meaning on this occasion, in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy.  The same Christ invites us to be merciful as the Father is merciful (Lk 6:36); and you are privileged witnesses of this how, of this merciful way of being that we learn from God.  In fact, if it is only in contemplating Jesus Christ that we discover the merciful face of the Father (cf Bull of Indiction, 1), the monastic life certainly constitutes a way to enter into this contemplative experience and to translate it into personal and collective witness.

The world today demonstrates more and more clearly its need for mercy; but this is not a slogan or a recipe: it is the heart of the Christian life and at the same time, her way of being, the breath that enlivens interpersonal relationships and makes us attentive to those who are in need, in solidarity with them.  This is what ultimately demonstrates the authenticity and the credibility of the message of which the Church is the guardian and the herald.  Well, in this time and in this Church called to focus more and more on her essentials, monastic men and women are entrusted, by means of their vocation, with a particular gift and a special responsibility: to keep the spiritual oases alive, where pastors and the faithful can discover the sources of divine mercy.  For this reason, in the recent Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei quaerere, I address all contemplative women, and by extension, all contemplative men as well:  The 'ora et labora' (work and pray) of the Benedictine tradition should always be your inspiration and help you to find the right balance between seeking the Absolute and commitment to your daily chores, between the peace of contemplation and the effort expended in work (VDQ, 32).

Seeking, with the grace of God, to live mercifully in your community, you proclaim evangelical fraternity in all your monasteries scattered throughout all corners of the planet; and you do this in the silence that works so eloquently, leaving room for God to speak in the world that is often so loud and distracted.  The silence that you observe and of which you are guardians is the necessary prerequisite to that gaze of faith that enables us to welcome God’s presence into our own life, that of the brothers and sisters given us by the Lord, and the events of today’s world (VDQ, 33).  Even though you live apart from the rest of the world, your cloister is not sterile, indeed, it is an an enrichment and not an obstacle to communion (VDQ, 31).  Your work, in harmony with prayer, makes you participants in the creative work of God and demonstrates your solidarity with the poor who cannot live without work (VDQ, 32).  With your characteristic hospitality, you can encounter the most wounded and distanced hearts, the hearts of those who find themselves in conditions of serious human and spiritual poverty.  As well, your commitment to the formation and education of young people is very appreciated and highly qualified.  The students in your schools, in addition to their studies and to your witness of life, can themselves become experts in that humanism, emanating from the Benedictine Rule.  And your contemplative life is also a privileged channel for nourishing communion with our brothers in the Eastern Churches.

The occasion of this International Congress strengthens your Federation, in order that the service of communion and cooperation between your monasteries may be evermore and better strengthened.  Do not allow yourselves to be discouraged if the members of monastic communities should diminish in number or increase in their age; on the contrary, maintain the zeal of your witness, even in the most difficult of situations today, in faithfulness to your charism and with courage to found new communities.  Your service to the Church is very precious.  Even in our time, there is a need for men and women who prefer nothing to the love of Christ (cf Rule of Saint Benedict, 4:21; 72:11), who are nourished daily with the Word of God, who worthily celebrate the holy liturgies, and who work joyfully and in harmony with creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your visit.  I bless you and accompany you with my prayers; and I also ask you, please, pray for me, I need your prayers.  Thank you.
(Original text in Italian)
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