Notker Wolf osb, Abbot Primate
Dear Readers, From 20 - 29 September, there took place at Sant'Anselmo in Rome the regular meeting of the Abbots' Congress of our Benedictine Confederation. All the major Superiors worldwide journey there in order to discuss the affairs of the Confederation, as also of Sant'Anselmo, and to make decisions on matters which are on the agenda.
This time there were 230 major Superiors. In addition, there were present, representatives of Benedictine women, 5 representatives of the Orthodox Patriarchates, and 2 representatives of Anglican Monasteries.
Besides these, we were addressed by the Abbots General of the Cistercians, and the Trappists, who are especially close to us, as we follow the same Rule.
We should not forget the representatives from the area of Education, of the college and administration of Sant'Anselmo.
There were 5 languages officially represented at the Congress: Italian, English, French Spanish and German. It was no light work that the translators had to do, it being necessary to quickly change channels.
Three Secretaries took the minutes, in order to put together a final report.
We had to use our Church once again as a Meeting Hall, and so we went as usual at midday to the Dominicans at Santa Sabina, in order to celebrate the Eucharist together, while Lauds and Vespers were sung in Latin in the Choir of Sant'Anselmo. This was a striking expression of our impressive unity in the praise of God.
Sant'Anselmo with its Athenaeum and College had an important place as a common project in our discussions, as well as its finances, as is to be expected today. In the past it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of time was given to this, as many Abbots were new, or had never studied there, and so many things which had already been decided needed to be explained and clarified. Therefore we held two information days before the Congress, in which 70 Superiors took part.
This time we changed somewhat our way of doing things. Previously, besides the discussions on Sant'Anselmo, we used to have five presentations on a definite Theme, which were then discussed in groups whose conclusions were brought to the general assembly.
This time we heard only two presentations on the Theme "Globalisation as a Fact, Challenge and Opportunity" which threw light on our present situation and its consequences.
The second gave a more spiritual view-point. Time was set aside for discussion in workshops on a number of questions which today are affecting our Monasteries: Formation, and Continuing Formation, Superiors or Abbots who are not priests, Communities in crisis, relations between men and women in mixed Congregations, questions on the Liturgy, Financial Management, Tradition and Creativity, the future of Monasticism, sexual misconduct, Oblate Communities, lay Communities, and new movements, questions of Ecumenism, and Inter-religious Dialogue, contributions of reports about our regions and Benedictine organisations all these widened our views.
One morning was dedicated to an Audience with the Holy Father.
A day was ear-marked for excursions to Subiaco, Monte Cassino and Norcia.
All in all, we succeeded in tightening up the Congress and maintaining interest in it, which proved to be the case right to the end. An essential help lay in the role of Moderator being fulfilled by Abbots Richard Yeo (Downside) Jean-Pierre Longeat (Ligugé) and Jeremias Schröder (St. Ottilien).
I should remark on one special feature. In 2001, the Benedictine Women united in a kind of spiritual Association, the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum and revised the previous Statutes of the Consociatio. The Revision was accepted by the Congress with an overwhelming majority. Mother Maire Hickey (Dinklage) the Moderator of the Benedictine Women, was consequently invited, with great applause, to take her place next to me. In the future, we will make our way along the Benedictine path even closer together.
It is the duty of the Presidents' Synod to make preparations for the Congress. They asked for the views of the participants in the next Congress, and convoked a commission and had several meetings. The discussions extended until shortly before the Congress, when the Commission for Sant'Anselmo met, with representatives from nearly all the Congregations. We should thank all who contributed to the success of the Congress: our kitchen staff, who treated us really well, the officials of the house, and the young Helpers from different Monasteries.
This Bulletin will through its different articles convey to you an impression of something which is to us Benedictines such an essential experience. The AIM bulletin is the appropriate place to do that. It is published in different languages, and is that publication of our Order, which has the widest audience. In this way I hope the Congress will be fruitful in our Communities. During the Congress great interest was shown in the growth of Monasteries and Monastic themes in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These things will surely be of increased importance at the next Congress.
Because only the Superiors of Independent Houses take parting the Congress, new foundations need to wait long years before they are raised to independence, and so houses in Africa and Asia are naturally under-represented. Fortunately, more and more faces from these lands are appearing at each Congress. Latin America is well represented, but the others also have an interest in these events. We are well on the way to becoming a global Confederation. The Bulletin reflects this process. May the heritage of St. Benedict be brought to all cultures.