Arms of Sant'Anselmo


Badia Primaziale Sant'Anselmo
Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta 5
I-00153 Roma


Abbot Primate Notker Wolf OSB

Circular Letter 2005-2 to the
Monasteries of the Benedictine Confederation

Universal Church | Sant'Anselmo | St. Paul's | Varia

1 July, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul our academic year has come to a close. Since so much has happened in recent months, I think it is important not to wait until next year to send you this information.

1. Events in the Universal Church

There is no need to say too much about the greater events in the universal Church: you have surely kept up to date with the media coverage of many of these and, indeed, probably saw more than those of us who were present in St Peter's Square at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI. The death of Pope John Paul II moved us all. He restored the reality of illness and death to our society and for this reason spoke to many beyond the confines of the Church. We saw with astonished admiration the relaxed and apparently effortless way the Romans dealt with the huge numbers of people who came to the city for these events.

We were happy that the new Pope chose the name Benedict. This is indeed a programmatic answer to the comprehensive criticism of contemporary culture which he made at the beginning of the Conclave. May the Christian values which were transmitted by the Patron of the West, his monks nuns and sisters, become once more a foundation for the whole human family, to the glory of God and the benefit of all people. When he was Archbishop of Munich the Holy Father made his retreat every year in the Benedictine monastery of Scheyern and, indeed, was a frequent visitor in Benedictine monasteries. Thus, he is very familiar with the Rule of Benedict and on several occasions has quoted the phrase, "To prefer nothing to the love of Christ" (RB 4,21), the origin and goal of our monastic vocation.

During this period it was natural that I should be asked for many interviews by the media, both on the person of John Paul II and on the name of the new Holy Father. I was also asked many times privately if the new Pope is an oblate of this or that Benedictine abbey. I know nothing of any such oblature. Here, I think, there is a certain amount of wish-fulfilment at work. I should like to use this opportunity to point out one or two things. We are constantly being asked to arrange private audiences or the presentation of a book etc. The possibility no longer exists to be presented individually at the Pope's general audiences. After the usual Wednesday morning audience the Pope greets only the bishops present and the handicapped. Also, he has discontinued his predecessor's practice of inviting individuals or small groups to attend his morning Mass. In my opinion, the Holy Father not only needs to look after his health, but he also does not wish to place too much emphasis on his own person. His primary interest is service of the Church.

The day after his inauguration the Pope visited the basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls. On his arrival, he was met by the former Abbot, D. Paolo Lunardon, by the recently elected but not yet confirmed Abbot, D. Edmund Power and by me. This was a brief but cordial meeting. On 23rd June, Vigil of the Solemnity of St John the Baptist, Abbot Edmund received the Abbatial Blessing from the Secretary of State, Angelo Cardinal Sodano. Abbot Edmund is now the abbot of an international community of 25 monks. The functions of Abbot President are exercised by the Abbot Primate. At the end of May we discovered the long-awaited motu proprio on the Internet. Among other things, it regulates the relations between the Abbey and the Holy See as well as the various administrative structures. A more detailed Statute is to follow.

The abbey is no longer a territorial abbey and the basilica, like the other three patriarchal basilicas, now has an Archpriest in the person of Archbishop Montezemolo, the first nuncio to Israel and subsequently nuncio to Italy. The archbishop had chaired the papal commission for St Paul's, showing a great understanding for the special character of the Benedictine community. Abbot Edmund is his delegate for the pastoral affairs of the basilica. In addition, there is another delegate for administrative and financial affairs.

The motu propio specifically mentions that the basilica is the monastic church and the abbot, as hitherto, will be responsible for the liturgical functions in the basilica. Confreres will be available to pilgrims for confessions. We hope that St Paul's will continue to attract pilgrims but that, above all, it will develop as a spiritual and ecumenical centre. The community will continue to need the solidarity of the whole Order. I think that such an important centre should be the concern of us all.

2. Sant'Anselmo

Once the first international congress of oblates in September has ended, Fr Luigi Bertocchi will join the community at St Paul's. My secretary, Fr Henry O'Shea, will look after the oblates and friends of Sant'Anselmo and Fr Romano Silva Lopes will be responsible for guests.

Because all offices cease with the death of a pope, the recent vacancy led to some delays. But we are happy that before the end of the academic year the newly-elected Rector of the Athenaeum, Fr Mark Sheridan of Washington, DC/USA, was confirmed in office by the Congregation for Catholic Education. We still await the confirmation of his successor as Dean of Theology. The term of office of the Dean of Philosophy, Fr Aniceto Molinaro, has been extended for a year. In the next few days our previous Rector, Fr Albert Schmidt, will return to his home-monastery at Beuron where he will take over as manager of the journal, Erbe und Auftrag. Once more, I should like to thank Fr Albert. His great work not only benefited the Athenaeum but assured our good reputation with Vatican- and Italian public authorities.

Yesterday, Sr Maria Laura Natali left the Abbot Primate'e curia. She will be assuming responsibility for the community at Ponasserchio. My special thanks also to her, particularly for the fact that at very short notice she filled the gap left by the election of the designated secretary, Fr Christopher Zielinski, as Abbot of Pecos. The Abbot Primate's curia needs two secretaries, if only to guarantee the manning of the telephone, not to mention the many other tasks. Happily I have been able to find a successor to Sr Maria Laura in the person of Fr Geraldo Gonzáles y Lima, up to now headmaster of the school at the abbey of São Geraldo at São Paulo. I am very grateful to the community at São Paulo for helping me to fill this gap. It is good that Latin America will be represented in this office. In addition, Fr Geraldo is a promoter of the International Commission for Benedictine Education and will be a help to me in giving more attention to this commission. At present we are processing the application for Fr Geraldo's residence permit.

A fortnight ago the Finance Commission and the Commission for Sant'Anslemo held their annual meetings here. These meeting are, on the one hand, a valuable control for us and on the other, a source of useful suggestions. Among the latter this time was the suggestion that we change our plans for the renovation of the buildings at Sant'Anselmo. The transformation of Aula IV into administrative offices continues apace. Following this, we had intended to tackle, as a first phase, the remainder of that wing from ceiling to cellar. We then hoped to move on from one wing to the next. Investigations, however, have shown that all the roofs are in such a bad state that they will have to be repaired if serious damage to the substance of all the buildings is to be avoided. It is not simply that there is grass growing on the roofs. Worse, all the roof-beams are in a parlous state with, in some cases, a real danger of collapse.

Last summer we renovated the apse of the church. But what use is this if, whenever there is a heavy shower, water pours through the roof? When I am in my place in choir I have to put up my hood to avoid getting soaked. Since the repair of the roofs will require the erection of expensive scaffolding, it is wise to avail ourselves of this opportunity to tackle the walls as well. In this way we can avoid having to put up the scaffolding a second time. At a later stage we can deal with the rooms and windows. To simplify matters, the Finance Commission has suggested that roof and facades be divided into 'building bricks'. Together, the areas to be renovated amount to 18, 150 square metres (roof, 6,150; facades, 12,000). The cost per square metre -- excluding windows -- is calculated at €500. I should be most grateful if you could help to collect the necessary 'building bricks'. Perhaps you know of benefactors who might take responsibility for such bricks. It may be easier to finance the project if we think in terms of brick-by-brick rather than of large single donations.

I had hoped that once my projects in China and the hospital in North Korea which I shall be opening at the beginning of August, were completed, my days as a Benedictine mendicant would be over. But God, seemingly, has a different view. For this reason I am grateful for the Benedictine solidarity I experience constantly from all quarters. I have hopes that a visit here in the near future by the Italian Minister for Cultural Affairs, Signor Buttiglione, will solve the problem of the financing of the Aula Magna project.

3. Varia

I am grateful for the returns of the corrected data for the next edition of the Catalogus Monasteriorum O.S.B., which we hope to publish on the First Sunday of Advent. On my journeys I have occasionally heard that some monasteries have not received their pages for correction. I know that we have sent these pages to every monastery, by email, fax or ordinary post. If you have not received them, please let us know.

The Benedictine Calendar Commission is continuing its work. Recently a meeting was held with Archbishop Sorrentino of the Liturgy Congregation. The members of the commission are, the Archabbot of Monte Cassino, Bishop Bernardo D'Onorio, Abbot President Richard Yeo and Fr Juan Javier Flores, President of our Pontifical Institute of Liturgy.

On 4th April last, when celebrating with the community of Solesmes the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dom Guéranger, I was presented with the first copy of the renewed Antiphonale Monasticum (608 p., ca. €35). It is my hope that this new book will help our communities to sing the praise of God in the traditional way.

Guests are never lacking in a monastery and we hope in the future to be able to do more for those we receive here. I should like to mention two recent guests by name. Yesterday, the Archbishop of Atlanta, the Most Revd Wilton Gregory, celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving. The previous day he had received the pallium from the Holy Father. The archbishop holds a doctoral degree from our Pontifical Institute of Liturgy. Also yesterday, my predecessor, Abbot Marcel Rooney, arrived on a visit. I am pleased that he has joined us for some days and can see how things stand at Sant'Anselmo.

Finally, I should like to draw your attention to the Sant'Anselmo Forum, which appeared at the end of the academic year and contains news of events in Athenaeum and College.

With every good wish from Rome,

+ Notker Wolf OSB
Abbot Primate