The Vatican has exiled Italian ecumenical pioneer Enzo Bianchi from the monastery he founded, the Community of Bose, over governance issues.

“A tense and problematic situation”

The Community confirmed the Vatican verdict in a statement published on its website Wednesday, and recalled that the sentence against Bianchi came as a result of a the investigation Pope Francis ordered last year “due to serious concerns expressed by several members to the Holy See, which indicated a tense and problematic situation in our Community regarding the exercise of the authority of the founder, the community’s management, and the fraternal climate”.

The monastery said that by ordering the Vatican apostolic visitation the Pope had been keen to preserve the “ecclesial and ecumenical importance” of the community “both nationally and internationally” in the face of “serious hardship and misunderstandings that could weaken or even wipe it out”.

But after “prolonged and careful discernment and prayer”, the community said, the Pope decided on the expulsion of Bianchi, along with three more of the monastery’s brothers and sisters.

The community said the Vatican verdict came on May 13, but out of the “greatest possible respect for the right to confidentiality of those concerned” it decided at that point not to make the sentence public.

After the “situation of further confusion and discomfort” caused by the “rejection of the measures by some of the addressees”, however, the monastery said Wednesday that it was releasing the names of the exiled members and the nature of the finding against them, which it specified included not only expulsion but also the renunciation of their responsibilities of governance in the community.

– Half a century of ecumenical commitment

A layman and economist by profession, Bianchi, 77, founded the Bose Monastery in northern Italy in 1965, on the day the great modernising Second Vatican Council ended.

Some 85 brothers and sisters of different Christian denominations and of none presently live in the community guided by the rules of monastic discipline, and it is that commitment to the cause of dialogue and Christian unity that has seen founder Bianchi enjoy the favour of three popes and serve in official advisor roles to the Vatican on ecumenical issues.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the rule of the Bose Community, in 2018, Pope Francis praised Bianchi and his religious brothers and sisters for their years of “fruitful presence in the Church and in society”.

The pontiff added on that occasion that the monastery’s simple beginnings had blossomed into “a significant mission which has favoured the renewal of religious life”.

“Your community has distinguished itself in its commitment to prepare the way for unity among Christian Churches, becoming a place of prayer, encounter and dialogue in view of the communion of faith and love for which Jesus prayed”, Pope Francis wrote to Bianchi.

Though he officially stepped down as head of the Bose Monastery in 2017, Bianchi has continued to be active in the community, and for that reason media reports speculated that the tension that has resulted in his expulsion came down to the new prior feeling he couldn’t govern with the founder still on the scene.

For his part, Bianchi hinted at the Vatican decision in a series of tweets in recent days, lamenting the “weakness of every law” and the possibility of glorification after humiliation.

“What is decisive to determine the value of a life isn’t the quantity of things we’ve done but the love we’ve lived in each of our actions; even when the things we’ve done are finished, love remains as an indelible mark”, Bianchi wrote in a tweet May 24.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.