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Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Date Posted:
6/30/2005


Rome’s secret weapon for recatholicising the EU


As the EU turns against Rome, so that Pope conjures up the ghost of St Benedict
Dr Clive Gillis

ROME IS having a rough ride on the back of an increasingly secular European beast which is now rejecting the new EU Constitution. This has led Cardinal Ratzinger deliberately to climb into the saddle as Pope Benedict XV1 in the hope of steadying the animal.

In his first General Audience as Pope on the 27th April, Ratzinger explained his reasons for adopting the name Benedict: “St Benedict of Norcia ... the Great Patriarch of Western Monasticism ... Co‑Patron of Europe ... [was an] extraordinary figure ... The gradual expansion, of the Benedictine Order that he founded had an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity across the Continent.  St Benedict ... is a fundamental reference point for European unity and a powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of its culture.”

Similarly in 1980 John Paul II, following in the footsteps of all the post war popes, made a pilgrimage to the shrines which have grown up in the hills near Rome around a cave which was frequented by this sixth century hermit, Benedict.  They lie above the ribbon‑like town of Subaico, 40 km east of Rome, which today is choked with traffic going to the pilgrimage site.  The plaque recording John Paul II’s visit to St Benedict’s monastery specifically says that he went as “una cum Europae episcopis”  ‑ as one with the bishops of Europe.

How did St Benedict come to be, for Rome, “the first European”?  The story is a curious mixture of fact and fable.

Benedict the hermit

Rome says Benedict was born in Norcia about 480 AD.  He fled from the revelries of Rome and took refuge in a cave below a monastery.  Benedict eventually preached to shepherds and so was invited to be the superior of a nearby monastery.  But the monks poisoned their new, strict Abbott, who returned to his grotto.  Later he founded St Clements in a deserted Roman villa.  There he perfected a rule of monastic life, the Regula Benedicti.  This embodied the secret of perfect piety, justice and order for his monastery.

Pope Gregory the Great (590‑604) endowed the Benedictines.  The monks then went out to evangelise all Europe, including the British Isles.  They applied the Regula Benedicti wherever they settled.  However strange a culture or insular its people, a Benedictine monastery soon imparted, along with Christianisation, the notion of European citizenship.   As a result, by the year 1000 AD there was a stable, pan‑European Christianisation of the Benedictine brand, organised from the HQ in Subaico.  And lo! the divided unruly peoples of pagan Europe were united as a common Christian community, Benedictine style.  At least that is the story.

This brings us to Benedict and Rome today.  Readers will be well aware of the Vatican’s efforts after World War II to dominate Europe through the Treaty of Rome.  This strategy was spearheaded by the “St Benedict for first European” campaign conceived during World War II.  Pius XII may have been silent about the holocaust but he certainly made waves when one of Benedict’s early monasteries, Monte Cassino, was bombed by the allies.  Churchill, unworried, correctly observed, “the enemy fortifications were hardly separate from the building itself”. But Pius castigated it as an “atrocity bombing”.  He and his two successors, John XXIII and Paul VI, all vowed to use Benedict’s European credentials to bring the continent to heel.

Benedict Patron of all Europe

With the European ideal accelerating, Paul VI declared Benedict Patron of all Europe in the papal brief, Pacis Nuntius (‘Messenger of Peace’).  This was issued on 24th October 1964 during the re‑consecration of the rebuilt monastery of Monte Cassino. Pacis declares: “Messenger of peace, creator of oneness, master of civilisation and above all, herald of the religion of Christ and founder of monastic life in the West: these are the proper titles with which to acclaim St Benedict Abbott.  On the fall of the Roman Empire, by then exhausted, Europe seemed to fall into darkness [as at the end of WWII!] ... bereft of civilisation and spiritual values”.  Benedict, it said, “gave birth to the dawn of a new era ... bonded the spiritual unity of Europe ... this unity is an exemplary type of absolute beauty ... Pius X11 hailed St Benedict quite rightly as the Father of Europe ...Through the merits of this great Saint Our same Predecessor desired God to support the efforts of those trying to unite the European nations ... John XXIII also fervently desired that this would come about.”

“We [Paul VI] also give Our full approval to this movement which is aiming to create a united Europe ... We have been happy to receive the petitions of [numerous pro‑European people and institutions are listed] to declare St Benedict, Patron Saint of Europe ... this solemn proclamation ... is for us the suitable moment [to] re‑consecrate to God, in honour of the Most Holy Virgin and St Benedict the temple of Monte Cassino ...rebuilt due to Christian piety ...after the horrors of the world war... May he [Benedict) watch over all European Life ....in virtue of Our apostolic power ... in perpetuity ... we constitute and proclaim St Benedict, Abbot, the heavenly principle Patron of All Europe...”

“In perpetuity” is Vatican speak for “as long as it suits”.  Readers will have spotted that Pope Benedict XVI referred to St Benedict as a “Co‑Patron”.  Eastern European politics has forced the Vatican to elevate saints Cyril and Methodius to the status of co‑patrons as a sweetener to smooth the way for Rome’s invasion of Russian Orthodoxy in the east!

Subaico v. secularism

Today, as secular Euro‑peronsalities, including Euro MPs and their people, seek to broaden and secularise the European ideal, Rome is retaliating in the guise of the Fondazione Sublacense Vita a Famiglia (‘Subaico Foundation for Life and Family’) founded in 2001 from pre‑existing pressure groups.  Its stated aim is to “follow the humanistic values spread throughout Europe by Benedictine monasticism”.  What monks and their concubines have to do with family life is none too clear!  The Foundation has widespread support from RC academics and pro-Rome Euro MPs. (See below for its numerous and influential projects*.)

Grygiel’s prophetic vision

Finally we quote Prof Grygiel’s prophetic vision: “Europe in the Third Millennium will either be Benedictine or will disappear as a spiritual and cultural reality, remaining a place of material riches and spiritual poverty, a peninsula of Asia and an economic and military partner of the United States.  The future of Europe depends on the ability of Europeans to preserve the close ties and ideal balance between ora and labors [Benedict’s slogan ‘pray and work’ is used as synonymous with continued RC Euro‑Christianisation).  The future of Europe will not be decided in the great centres of political and economic power but in the tiny abbeys scattered over the entire continent...”  Really?

*THE SUBAICO FOUNDATION

Projects include the St Benedict Prize awarded to the person who best supports Rome in secular Europe.

Research by sympathetic academics is sponsored in the unique Subaico library containing early monastic manuscripts to strengthen the Benedict legend.

A prestigious Schools Competition offers a prize for the best “Benedict in Europe” project.

Cultural trips are organised to important sites of European romanisation.

A publishing organisation Radici (‘Roots’) produces annual popular adult material on the [RC] Christian roots of Europe. Saint Benedict the First European by John Paul II, ‑ favoured Polish Prof Ludmilla Grygiel with a forward by romanist Euro‑MP Lorenzo Cesa ‑ was presented to the European Parliament in 2004. Cesa grabbed headlines in Italy on the 30th May 2005 viciously castigating the French for their “severe judgement” on European unity.

Finally should Benedict’s euro‑halo ever slip the Foundation is grooming an alternative by instituting a Day for St Thomas More ‑ on his own saints day naturally assisting experts on Europe’s [RC] Christian roots to gather at various venues for conferences.

ORIGINS OF MONASTICISM WERE NOT EUROPEAN

The monastic idea originated in Palestine, Syria and Egypt.  It entered Europe in the third century by the vehicle of the Roman Empire.  Asceticism came to Italy, Spain, Gaul (France), and hence the British Isles, along the trade routes.  As pagan Rome disintegrated, the monastic ideal became popular in Europe, particularly around Rome which was now in chaos.  The first European monastic writings, including the rules for monastic life, were Latin translations of eastern manuscripts.  Only later did the monks produce original Latin material.

Benedict is but “a shadowy figure in this history”.  Probably “in the second quarter of the sixth century [he] edited, shortened, tightened and in general improved one of these monastic rules making it his own”.  Gregory the Great simply gathered traditions that had passed from mouth to mouth concerning Benedict.  The majority were far fetched miracle stories featured in frescoes on the monastery walls.  Gregory’s famous Vita [life] of Benedict gave apparent substance to these shadowy memories.

THE BENEDICTINES

The Benedictines, really the Black Monks, came into their own after 800 AD when the pope and the Franks formed an alliance known as the Holy Roman Empire.  They introduced a single, recognised, set of regulations to stamp out the plague of varied monks.  The Franks legislated in 817 that all monasteries had to follow the Regula Benedicti.  An expert confirms that, “Memory of competing rules faded and monks and nuns created the myth of Benedict as founding father of Western monasticism ... Each monastery, whether of men or women, was an independent institution.  The individual newcomer joined a particular monastery ... for life ... The modern notion of a monastic order ‑ with a table of organisation, a headquarters, meetings, and mobility between one house and another ... did not yet exist.”

An 11th century psalter in the British Library depicts the monks at their zenith.  An awesome Benedict is enthroned with monks before him.  His halo proclaims him “father ‑ and leader of monks” and a headband states “fear God”.  A monk beneath his feet denotes a “zone of humility”.  The monks present Benedict with the Regula.  God’s hand emerges from a cloud proffering a stole stating “whoever listens to you listens to me”.  Yet the Black Monks’ dominance only lasted three centuries.  They never networked New monks, like Francis of Assisi, came along who were revolted by Benedictine degeneracy and cried for reform. Francis is really the first euro‑monk who can claim to be the founder of a standardised pan‑European monastic chain, governed from Assisi by a hierarchy.  Luther was nailing his 95 thesis to the church door at Wittenberg before the Benedictines attempted to develop such a hierarchical structure.  The epithet “Benedictine” was coined even later.  The Oxford Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources puts the first appearance of a new Latin word, Benedictinus, at 1526.

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