Exiled ecumenical founder says he’ll leave ‘as soon as possible’

Exiled ecumenical founder says he’ll leave ‘as soon as possible’

Enzo Bianchi, founder and former prior of the ecumenical Monastery of Bose, pictured at the Vatican Jan. 12, 2019. (Credit: CNS/Vatican Media.)

Enzo Bianchi, the founder of a popular monastic community who was exiled last year but has yet to leave, said he intends to go as soon as possible.

ROME – Enzo Bianchi, the founder of a popular monastic community who was exiled last year but has yet to leave, said he intends to go as soon as he can and that, despite previous reports to the contrary, no one will go with him.

Speaking to Crux, Bianchi said rumors in some Italian newspapers saying he will move to Turin with two other members of the community are “not true.”

“I will go as soon as possible, but alone. And I will not go into the city,” he said, adding that he plans to leave “as soon as I find accommodation, when the pandemic is over, and the laws allow for the move.”

Bianchi has been at the center of a nearly two-year long back-and-forth with the Vatican and the Bose Monastery he founded after he was ordered to leave the community last May following a Vatican investigation.

A lay monk, Bianchi founded the Bose Monastery in the 1960s as an ecumenical community of men and women belonging to different Christian confessions, but who live a common life of prayer, poverty, celibacy, and obedience to the Gospel.

The community was canonically approved in 2000, and enjoyed the favor of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.

In 2003, Bianchi was tapped by John Paul II to be part of the delegation that returned the celebrated icon of Our Lady of Kazan to the patriarch of Moscow in his capacity as a member of the executive board of the Catholic Committee for the Cultural Cooperation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

He attended high-profile Vatican meetings in 2008 and in 2012, and in 2018 Pope Francis named him a consultor of the Vatican’s office for Christian Unity.

Bianchi stepped down from leadership in 2017, however, the transition did not go well, and in 2019 the Vatican opened an investigation into the internal life of the Bose Monastery after members complained about what they said were abuses of power and authority on the part of Bianchi, who they accused of undercutting the community’s new leadership.

This investigation culminated in May 2020, when the Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, ordered Bianchi and three other members of the community to move off monastery grounds in an effort to re-establish a peaceful internal environment.

RELATED: Vatican exiles leader of Bose monastic community

Nearly a year later, Bianchi has yet to leave.

According to a statement last month from the papal delegate to monastic community, Father Amedeo Cencini, the main reason for Bianchi’s initial failure to move was because he could not find affordable housing.

In February, Bose announced that it would close a property in Cellole and set it aside it for Banchi and any community members who wished to join him. In the new arrangement, Bianchi was ordered out by the start of Lent, however, he did not leave, arguing in a March 6 blog post that this was because there were conditions of which he was not aware when he originally agreed to this option.

Pope Francis has directly intervened in the situation multiple times, holding a private meeting with Cencini and Bose’s current prior, Father Luciano Manicardi, March 4, the day before his historic visit to Iraq. After that meeting, the Vatican issued a statement asking that the May 2020 decree ousting Bianchi be implemented.

Two weeks later, Pope Francis sent the Bose Monastery a letter in which he voiced his support, telling members that they were not alone, and urging them not to be discouraged and to stay true to their vocation while the apparent impasse with Bianchi was being dealt with.

RELATED: You are not alone, pope tells troubled ecumenical monastery

In his March 6 blog post, Bianchi said the facts of his case were being misconstrued, arguing that it was never explained to him why he was being exiled, and that while he had initially agreed to move to Cellole, he only found out afterward that one of the conditions was to strip members who moved there with him of their monastic status.

Bianchi said that had he known about this and other conditions when the option of Cellole was presented to him, he would never have agreed.

Since, then no further information has been released either by the monastery, or Bianchi, and no public statements have been made.

In his comments to Crux, Bianchi did not confide where he intends to move or where he is looking. It is unclear how long his search will take, and it is also unclear when a potential move could happen, given current coronavirus restrictions keeping businesses closed and implementing a tight ban on movement between regions.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

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