Sandro Magister blogs from Rome –There has been underway for more than three months in Bose, in Piedmont, the same region from which Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s grandparents and father emigrated to Argentina, a fact-finding visit ordered by Pope Francis on “that which concerns the exercise of authority” at the famous monastery founded in 1968 by Br. Enzo Bianchi – still residing there – and with his successor and prior, since 2017, Br. Luciano Manicardi.
The news of the inspection was given in December by the monastery’s official website. But since then nothing more has come out on the progress of the investigation.
The only article that has lifted the veil on the probable motives for the inspection was published on January 9 2020 in the online newspaper of the diocese of Bergamo, with the byline of its director, Msgr. Alberto Carrara. But it was removed shortly thereafter, without explanation.
This phantom article is however reproduced in full below. It indicates in the contrasts between the founder and the successor a presumable reason – not the only one – for sending the three “apostolic visitors,” whose profiles it outlines.
Enzo Bianchi is a simple monk without sacred orders, like almost all of the approximately eighty members – men and women – of his monastic community, with headquarters in Bose and branches in Jerusalem, Assisi, Ostuni, Cellole di San Gimignano and Civitella San Paolo.
In 2014 Pope Francis appointed him adviser to the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity, in part because of the inter-confessionality of the community he founded, made up of brothers and sisters of five nations, some of whom are Protestant and Orthodox.
One of the most frequent visitors to Bose, where he resides for long periods, is archbishop emeritus of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Church Rowan Williams.
Br. Enzo Bianchi is one of the most influential leaders of progressive Catholicism, founding father of the “school of Bologna.” From 1978 to 2000 he was president of the Foundation for religious sciences founded in Bologna by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti, on the board of directors of which he is a lifetime member.
THE MONASTERY OF BOSE AND ITS (PROBABLE) PROBLEMS by Alberto Carrara
[From “www.santalessandro.org” of January 9 2020, subsequently removed]
Pope Francis: three “apostolic visitors” to Bose
At the monastery of Bose there has been underway, since last December 6, an “apostolic visit.” Pope Francis has sent his envoys for an internal investigation into the community. The news was given by the monastery’s own official website, which also published the names of the “visitors,” that is, the persons that the Holy See has chosen for this important act. Even more: in the case of Bose it is Pope Francis himself who has taken the initiative.
One is Father León Arboleda Tamayo, a Benedictine abbot who presides over one of the Benedictine families, the one called the Subiaco Cassinese Benedictine congregation. The second is Father Amedeo Cencini, Canossian, adviser to the Vatican congregation for institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life. The third is Mother Anne-Emmanuelle Devéche, Trappist, abbess of Blauvac, a village located in Vaucluse in the south of France, the capital of which is Avignon.
“The brothers and sisters of Bose,” the press release says, “express sincere gratitude to the Holy Father Francis for this sign of paternal closeness and concern, which is intended to help them, according to what he himself wrote on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation, to ‘meditate more intensely on your calling and your mission, entrusting yourselves to the Holy Spirit to have steadfastness and courage in continuing on your path with courage’ and to ‘persevere in your initial intuition: may the sobriety of your life be a shining testimony to evangelical radicalism; may fraternal life in charity be a sign that you are a house of communion where all can be welcomed like Christ in person.’ They welcome with joy this precious opportunity for listening and dialogue.”
The founder Enzo Bianchi has resigned. Luciano Manicardi in his place
There are a few elements that bring to mind something particular. Meanwhile, this is not a matter of an ordinary visit – which falls within the routine of the monastic communities – but of an extraordinary visit. If the visit is extraordinary, it is conceivable that there are also extraordinary reasons that have made it necessary.
One reason is enunciated by the statement itself: Enzo Bianchi, the founder, has resigned and Luciano Manicardi, one of the best-known figures in the community, has been elected in his place. The founder, however, remains in the community. A situation that is almost never easy and is often a source of uncertainties. The statement itself acknowledges this, speaking of “a time of transition that cannot help but be delicate and in some respects problematic as regards the exercise of authority, the management of the government, and the fraternal climate.” This sentence was present in an initial version of the press release and was omitted in the version now online [but was later reintroduced – ed.].
Known situation: the founder who remains in the community he founded ends up being like the statue of the Emperor [to be exact: of the Commendatore – ed.] for Don Giovanni. He should not be there, but there it is. He should not decide, but decisions cannot be made without him. Above all, changes cannot be made without him, because doing something different from what he did is like disowning him and one cannot disown the founder.
Father Amedeo Cencini, a somewhat special “visitor”
This is understood to be the composition of the visiting commission. Two figures are peaceably normal: a monk for the monks and a nun for the nuns (in Bose there are, as is well known, two communities, one male and one female). The figure that suggests something special in Bose’s situation is the third, Father Amedeo Cencini.
He has caused talk in recent years because he had been appointed, in due course, “apostolic visitor” for the religious community of Villaregia. This community – a missionary community that has its main location in Villaregia, in the Po delta – had serious and intricate internal problems and Father Cencini worked to unravel the situation. It seems that he did this well: the community of Villaregia, after the rather violent jolts of the crisis, has resumed its journey.
Now the same “visitor” who earned his stripes on the field of difficult religious communities has been sent to Bose. The outside observer is led to think that in Bose as well there are a few problems and, perhaps, given the stature of the visitor, these are not trivial problems, because if the problems were of little importance the other two visitors would have been enough.
Enzo Bianchi, the monastery, public opinion
Problems which are therefore – it is worth underlining – internal to the community. And this too is a further complication. Enzo Bianchi, who is a monk, nonetheless has extensive connections in ecclesiastical circles, bishops “in primis.” But above all he is very highly regarded by public opinion in general and secular in particular (for some time he has been a regular contributor to “La Repubblica,” after having contributed, in recent years, to “La Stampa” and various other print and television outlets).
So any problems due to his figure would be very well known on the inside but little known on the outside. Public opinion would struggle to understand the contrasts related to the life of the monastery because, in order to understand those contrasts, it would have to know the monastery. But public opinion knows Enzo Bianchi well, knows the monks much less well, their community life, their prayer, their work, their roles and complex and sometimes complicated relationships… that is, the reality hidden from the outside world where those contrasts lurk. And therefore public opinion runs the risk of not understanding those problems and of reducing them to banal quarrels of friars and nuns.
But this is not the case, obviously. So much so that the pope himself has gone out of his way. And precisely because this is not the case it is to be hoped, from ecclesial public opinion much more than from the secular, that the conflicts will resolve themselves, if possible for the good and if possible soon.