Founder defies Vatican order to leave ecumenical community

Enzo Bianchi 2 Enzo Bianchi, founder of the Monastic Community of Bose. | Niccolò Caranti (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Enzo Bianchi has defied a Vatican order to leave the ecumenical monastery he founded in 1965.

The Holy See had given the prominent Italian layman until Feb. 17 to leave the monastery after issuing a decree, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on May 13, 2020, following an apostolic visitation.

A statement on the Monastic Community of Bose's website announced "with deep bitterness" that Bianchi did not leave the community in Piedmont to move to Tuscany as he was instructed by the pontifical delegate in January.

"The move of Br. Enzo to Cellole would have helped to ease the tension and suffering of all and would have facilitated the slow path of reconciliation and mutual understanding," it said.

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."

But after "several of the interested parties" rejected the measures, it said it was "opportune to specify that the above-mentioned provisions regard Br. Enzo Bianchi, two brothers and one sister, who are to separate themselves from the Monastic Community of Bose and to move to another place and who at the same time are relieved of all the offices they presently hold."

The statement added that Cardinal Parolin had sent a letter to the community that "has traced a path of the future and of hope, indicating the basic lines of a process of renewal, which, we trust, will give a fresh impetus to our monastic and ecumenical life."

Bianchi resigned as prior of the community in 2017 and Luciano Manicardi was chosen as his successor.

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