"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Abbot Primate's Circular Letter

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Peace reigns in Sant'Anselmo. The academic year ended on 29th June. The professors and students left for the holidays. P. Juan Javier Flores, the new Rector has taken up office and the new Prior, Fr Elias Lorenzo is learning Italian. Here only a small group remains to keep things going during the Summer heat. Our building- and renovation-projects continue: roofs, the installation of an internet system throughout the house, a new electrical plant and, not least, planning of the new aula. All of these matters were gone through once again at the joint meeting in June of my Council and the Finance Commission for Sant'Anselmo.

At the beginning of July I was in China and North Korea. In North Korea I signed a contract for the establishment of an out-patients clinic at our hospital. I have postponed until next year a journey planned for the first half of August. This will give me the chance to rest a little, to replenish my resources and deal with the mound of correspondence that has accumulated. Even though I spend the whole day at my desk I find time in the evening for a few lengths of the swimming-pool.

I am writing this letter mainly to make up for a major omission in my last letter. When drawing up the list of topics to be mentioned in a letter one always forgets something no matter how careful one is. I am sorry about this but to err is human. I am referring to the canonisation on 26th April last of St. Bernard Tolomei, the founder of Monte Oliveto and with it of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation. During a time of monastic renewal St. Bernard Tolomei withdrew with his companions from Sienna to Monte Oliveto in the year 1313 and founded his community based on the Rule of St. Benedict. He died of the plague which he contracted through his self-sacrificing service of those stricken with this disease. His canonisaiton was long overdue given the great deal of good done in the Church throughout the centuries by his foundation, now spread beyond Europe to America, Africa and Asia. I am thinking too of the many Olivetan women who work most fruitfully in Switzerland and in South Korea. Even in China it has been possible to re-establish the former community at Yanji. It is really astonishing what one man, who wants to follow Christ and can inspire others to do so, can achieve over the centuries. Our congratulations are due to Abbot General Michelangelo Tiribilli, his community and Congregation and to all Olivetan women, on this canonisation which also reflects some of its glory on the wider Benedictine family. At the end of the canonisation the Holy Father said that the Benedictine life is of great significance for the Church. Let us hope that our other Benedictine beati will be recognised by the Universal Church by being canonised.

There is a second matter to which I should like to refer. For many years we have had excellent contacts and a spiritual dialogue with Buddhist monks and monasteries. In the past 30 years our group DID-MID has done much to foster mutual understanding and esteem. In the meantime Islam throught the world is becoming ever stronger and more self-conscious. We cannot close our eyes to this reality. This dialogue has become very important for the Holy Father. Some time ago I asked Dom Timothy Wright, the former Abbot of Ampleforth, on the basis of his earlier experiences with Iranian theologians, to investigate what is already happening on our side in the matter of Christian-Islamic dialogue and how we can help this. The DIM-MID group will discuss this at their annual meeting at the end of August in Trondheim in Norway. With this letter I am enclosing a letter from Abbot Timothy which includes a short questionnaire. I am aware that very few questionnaires have any chance of being answered but I should be most grateful if you could send some answers to Fr William Skudlarek, the General Secretary of DIM. His address is printed on the questionnaire.

In the last week of September I shall be at the annual Synod of Abbots President which is being held at the Abbey of Waegwan in South Korea. Waegwan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Benedictine presence in Korea as well as the dedication of the new monastery which replaces the one that was largely destroyed by fire in the night from Holy Thursday to Good Friday, 2007. Our Benedictine history is closely linked with that of the Korean Church and the fortunes of the Korean people. However, we will be missing one familar face: Abbot Clemens Lashofer of Göttweig, who since 1982 as Abbot President of the Austrian Congregation, shared responsibility for the Confederation and for Sant'Anselmo. On 21st July in the presence of 45 abbots and a score of bishops he was laid to rest. His motto was, 'Obviam Christo Domino – to meet Christ the Lord'. May Christ fulfill his hope.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. This is deeply monastic feast: the transfigured Christ who lives among us. We can too easily forget this in the cares of everyday living. May our gaze constantly be opened to this reality. The transfigured Christ is now living among us. He strengthens our following of him, he is our goal and our hope.

I fraternal union and with heartfelt greetings from a warm and sunny Rome,


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Abbot Primate Notker

Rome, Sant'Anselmo, 6th August, 2009

Feast of the Transfiguration
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