ROME – Italian lay monk Enzo Bianchi, founder of a popular ecumenical monastery who was ordered to leave last year as a result of internal tensions within the community, has finally moved out, over a year after the request was first made.
In a June 7 post to Twitter, Bianchi, who usually sends a daily tweet with a bible passage or short reflection but who has failed to do so in recent days, announced the move, telling his followers that “for a few days I was silent, and I did not send you the thoughts that emerged in my heart, but a tiring, suffering move prevented me.”
“For us old people, migrating is an unthinkable strain, because we are preparing for the final exodus, not to change house or land,” he said.
Speaking to Crux, Bianchi said he has moved to the outskirts of Turin, “halfway up the hill,” where he lives alone.
A representative of the Bose Monastery confirmed to Crux that Bianchi moved off of community property sometime “in the past few days,” but did not have details about whether other members of the community might eventually move with Bianchi.
Bianchi’s move comes as the climax of a more than two-year back-and-forth with the Vatican and the Monastery after he was ordered to exile following a Vatican investigation into the internal life of the community in 2019.
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 was supported by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.
During his time leading the community, Bianchi acquired an extensive Vatican resume. In 2003, he was appointed by John Paul II as 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.
Bianchi also 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.
In 2017, Bianchi stepped down as the leader of the Bose Monastery, however, the transition to new leadership was far from smooth, leading the Vatican in 2019 to open an investigation into the internal life of the community over what they said were complaints about abuses of power and authority on the part of Bianchi, who members accused of undercutting the community’s new leaders.
When the inquiry concluded in May 2020, 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 and harmonious internal environment.
At the time, Bianchi promised to leave yet remained on community grounds for over a year before making the move, with reason for the delay being that he could not find adequate housing.
Bose announced in February that it would close its property in Cellole and set it aside for Bianchi’s use and any community members who wished to join him. Under that arrangement, Bianchi was asked to leave by the start of Lent, however, he still did not move out.
Pope Francis eventually intervened in the impasse, organizing a March 4 meeting with the pontifical delegate to Bose, Father Amedeo Cencini, and the current prior, Father Luciano Manicardi, the day before departing for his historic visit to Iraq.
In a lengthy post to his personal blog March 6, Bianchi defended himself, saying he was unaware of certain conditions attached to the arrangement when he initially agreed to it, such as a requirement that community members who moved with him would be stripped of their monastic status.
Pope Francis then sent a letter of support to members of the Bose Monastery, telling them not to be discouraged and to stay true to their ecumenical vocation.
In his letter, dated March 12 and published by the monastery March 18, the pope said he was writing “to express my closeness and support to you with all my heart in this period of strong trial that you are going through to live your vocation faithfully.”
“Do not feel abandoned in this impervious stage of your journey. The pope is beside each one of you,” he said, adding, “May nothing and no one take away the certainty of your call and of its beauty and trust in the future.”
In his comments to Crux, Bianchi said that he plans to continue looking for other accommodations in the countryside, “where the monastic life can be lived by practicing, as I have always done, hospitality toward pilgrims, friends, and people who are searching.”
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen