Pope Francis approved an apostolic visitation of the community, which took place between Dec. 6, 2019, and Jan. 6, 2020, in response to “serious concerns” about “a tense and problematic situation in our community regarding the exercise of the founder’s authority, the governance, and the fraternal climate,” according to the community’s website.
Bianchi founded the ecumenical community in Biella, northern Italy, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. It is a mixed community, composed of both men and women, who pray the Liturgy of the Hours and follow a rule influenced by St. Benedict and St. Basil the Great. Members include Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians.
A charismatic figure, Bianchi has maintained a high profile in the Italian Church. He took part in the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization and was named a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2014.
A few days before defying the order to leave, Bianchi wrote on his Twitter account: “The exercise of silence is difficult and tiring for all of us, but the hour comes when the truth cries out precisely with silence: even Jesus, according to the Gospels, kept silent before Herod, and did not deign to give him an answer. So silence yes, assent to the lie no!”
The apostolic visitation was conducted by Fr. Guillermo León Arboleda Tamayo, Abbot President of the Subiaco Cassinese Benedictine Congregation, Fr. Amedeo Cencini, consultor for the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, and Mother Anne-Emmanuelle Devéche, Abbess of Blauvac, France.
A prior statement on the community’s website said that Cencini had communicated the Vatican’s ruling privately to those concerned with “the greatest possible respect for the privacy of the interested parties.”