VATICAN CITY, 11 NOV 2009 (VIS) - In his Wednesday general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope focused his remarks on the Order of Cluny, "a monastic movement which had great importance during the Middle Ages", and which "renewed the observance of the Rule of St. Benedict", he said.
The Cluniac Order, the Pope explained, "sought to guarantee the central place that the liturgy must occupy in Christian life". It promoted sacred music, architecture and art, "and improved the liturgical calendar ... because the monks of Cluny were convicted that this meant participating in the liturgy of heaven".
"At the beginning of the twelfth century, the time of its greatest expansion, it had almost 1200 monasteries. ... Soon a fame of sanctity enveloped the monastery of Cluny, and many other monastic communities decided to follow its customs. ... Cluny's success was assured above all by its exalted spirituality".
"The monastery of Cluny and its dependent communities", the Pope went on, "were placed directly under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. This begot a special bond with the See of Peter and, thanks precisely to the protection and encouragement of the Popes, the ideals of purity and faithfulness, which the Cluniac reform set itself to pursue, were able to spread rapidly. Furthermore, the abbots were elected with no interference from the civil authorities".
Benedict XVI highlighted how "the Cluniac reform had positive effects not only on the purification and revitalisation of monastic life, but also on the life of the universal Church". It "was, indeed, a stimulus to resist two grave evils afflicting the Church in that period: simony - that is, the acquisition of pastoral office by payment - and the immorality of the secular clergy". In this context the Pope also pointed out that "the fruits were not lacking: the celibacy of priests again became respected and practiced, and more transparent procedures were introduced into the process of assigning ecclesiastical office".
He also explained how the monks of Cluny looked after the needy and concerned themselves with education and culture. The Order promoted "the so-called 'truces of God' and the 'peace of God'. In a period deeply marked by violence and the spirit of vendetta, the 'truces of God' ensured long periods of non-belligerence on specific religious feasts and on certain days of the week. The 'peace of God' called, under pain of canonical censure, for defenceless people in holy sites to be respected".
Cluny, said Benedict XVI, "emphasised the primacy of the wealth of the spirit; it maintained the tendency towards the things of God, the primacy of God; it inspired and supported initiatives and institutions for the promotion of human values; it educated people in a spirit of peace".
And he concluded: "Let us pray that all those people who have true humanism and the future of Europe to heart many know how to rediscover, appreciate and defend the rich cultural and religious heritage of those centuries".
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