Pope Benedict XVI focused his remarks at today's General Audience on the monastic reform linked to the monastery of Cluny. The rich cultural and religious heritage of those centuries, he said, should be rediscovered, appreciated and defended by all those who are concerned about the future of Europe.
The Order of Cluny was born in 910, thanks to a donation from William the Pious, the Pope explained to the 9,000 pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall. This monastic revival began in Cluny, "which at the beginning of the twelfth century came to include almost 1,200 monasteries.”
In particular, the revival consisted of the Benedictine rule being restored, “with some adaptations and above all the central role of the liturgy in Christian life with great care to chants, psalms, liturgy of the hours, the celebration of Holy Mass, enriching the worship of God with displays of art and music and introducing new festivals in early November as a celebration for the dead," said the Holy Father.
Another key component of the reform identified by Pope Benedict was that the monastery of Cluny and its dependent communities were placed directly under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. “This begot a special bond with the See of Peter and, thanks precisely to the protection and encouragement of the Popes, the ideals of purity and faithfulness, which the Cluniac reform set itself to pursue, were able to spread rapidly.”
Benedict XVI highlighted how "the Cluniac reform had positive effects not only on the purification and revitalization of monastic life, but also on the life of the universal Church."
The Church at the time was afflicted with two serious problems, simony, that is, the selling of clerical positions, and the immorality of the secular clergy. Thanks to the service of Cluniac monks who became bishops and popes, renewal began to spread through the Church.
The Pope explained, “The celibacy of priests again became respected and practiced, and more transparent procedures were introduced into the process of assigning ecclesiastical office." In an era when only ecclesiastical institutions provided for the needy, charitable actions were promoted.
He also explained how the monks of Cluny promoted the so-called “truces of God” and the “peace of God.” “In a period deeply marked by violence and the spirit of vendetta, the 'truces of God' ensured long periods of non-belligerence on specific religious feasts and on certain days of the week. The 'peace of God' called, under pain of canonical censure, for innocent people at holy sites to be respected," the Pope recalled.
The reform of Cluny, the Holy Father said, “kept alive attention to the primacy of God, it encouraged institutions to promote human values, it educated people to a spirit of peace."
“Let us pray,” the Pontiff concluded, “that all those people who have true humanism and the future of Europe at heart may know how to rediscover, appreciate and defend the rich cultural and religious heritage of those centuries."