(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Thursday announced a significant reorganisation of the principle monastery of the Benedictine Order, located at Montecassino in Italy’s Lazio region. A large part of the land, including 53 parishes with 37 priests and 50 women religious, which have been under the jurisdiction of the Abbey will be transferred to the local diocese of Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo. At the same time Pope Francis also appointed Abbot Donato Ogliari, O.S.B., as the new abbot of Montecassino.
A note issued by the Holy See Press Office said that since the Second Vatican Council the Church has been in the process of consolidating the role of abbots as fathers of the their religious communities, rather than Ordinaries who have to care for all the pastoral activities of their ecclesiastical territories.
The note says that in his 1976 Motu proprio “Catholica Ecclesia,” Pope Paul VI followed up on the suggestions of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council that no more territorial Abbeys should be established and that the existing ones should be either “more suitably defined” in terms of their territory or transformed into other ecclesiastical territories. The objective, the note says, was to encourage a more specific identity and legal definition which corresponded to the life of the monastic community, while at the same time ensuring that those living under the territorial Abbeys could enjoy the kind of pastoral care they needed in the modern world.
In order to promote this objective, in accordance with the agreements signed with the Italian State and in order to respect the great historic and cultural heritage of these territorial Abbeys, it was agreed that existing Abbeys in Italy would not be closed down, but would rather be limited to the area directly connected to the monastic community, namely the hermitage and related buildings.
Finally the note says that after lengthy reflection and careful consultation, the Holy See has decided that the time has come to bring Montecassino Abbey in line with “Catholica Ecclesia”, following on from a similar process at Subiaco Abbey in 2002, at Montevergine Abbey in 2005 and at Cava de’Tirreni Abbey in 2013. Montecassion Abbey will continue to be an ecclesiastical territory on a par with a diocese, although its territory has been significantly reduced.
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