Two Blows For Pope Benedict: The Death of His Brother and His Household Staff Will Be Placed Under a Commissar
(Rome) Pope Francis places the next community under provisional administration. He appointed a Jesuit as Commisar. In Rome, some speak of a "sneaky" move because it concerns Benedict XVI. What happened?
On the same day, however, his nine-year-old predecessor surprisingly traveled to Bavaria. Benedict XVI left his chosen retreat in the Vatican Gardens for the first time in seven years to visit his older brother Georg, whose health had deteriorated. The eighth German Pope returned to the Vatican after four days. Msgr. Georg Ratzinger died on July 1 at the age of 96.On June 18, the incumbent head of the Church announced that he would continue to insulate himself from Corona. Francis doesn't want to engage in any foreign travel. All pastoral visits that were already planned or in preparation were canceled without replacement. It is currently unknown whether and when they will take place.
The Commissar for the Memores Domini
Hardly had he returned to the monastery Mater Ecclesiae, that Benedict XVI. received a surprise that is as unusual as it is unpleasant. The Memores Domini Community, whose sisters live with him in the monastery, manage the household and look after him, was placed under the Provisional Administration by Pope Francis.
The origin of this community goes back to 1964 by Don Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) who founded the Student Youth Movement as one of the various communities which developed at the end of the 60s from Communion and Liberation (CL). The community is aimed primarily at academic youth.
1981 were Memores Domini, a name that is difficult to translate into English, because it means those who are mindful of God. They are canonically recognized by the Bishop of Piacenza as an association of faithful. 1988 was followed by recognition of their pontifical right by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
As the successor to Don Giussani, the Spaniard Don Julián Carrón has led the community since 2005. CL's German website states:
“The Memores Domini Association (…) includes members of CL who follow a vocation of total devotion to God and at the same time want to live in the middle of the world. They see their work as a place of Christ's memory and mission. They follow the evangelical counsels - poverty, virginity and obedience - and thus follow the tradition of the Church and what Don Giussani taught. The Memores Domini live together in 'houses', the aim of which is to educate each other to the memory of Christ. ”
The relatives commit themselves to a communal life according to the Evangelical Councils. They are constituted in separate houses for men and women. Admission takes place after a novitiate of at least five years by the professorship. The rules include “silence, personal and shared prayer, poverty, obedience and charity”.
The Memores Domini today has around 1,600 members and 400 candidates. They are represented in 32 countries, including 13 in Europe.
The first Memores Domini came in 1986 at the suggestion of Prince Nikolaus Lobkowicz in the German-speaking world, the then rector of the Catholic University was. Today there are community houses in Eichstätt, Munich and Cologne.
Benedict XVI's "family"
Benedict XVI leads a small community of four Memores Domini, Loredana, Carmela, Cristina and Rossella. already part of the papal household during his pontificate, and later formed the Papal Family together with the two secretaries of Pope Benedict XVI. As Benedict withdrew to the Vatican Garden, he brought the four consecrated women with him. Pope Francis completely foregoes a papal household through his life in the Vatican guest house Santa Marta.
Of the consecrated women who serve Benedict XVI. hardly anything is ever heard. They do their work in silence. The only exception was in 2010 when one of them, Manuela Camagni, was hit by a car in the streets of Rome and killed. Pope Benedict XVI spoke to Angelus about the service of the hardworking hands that surrounded him and for which he was grateful. Manuela was 56 years old. At the age of 26 years she entered the Community of Memores Domini. She had served in the Episcopal Ordinariate in Tunis before the 2005, several years before she was sent to the papal household.
The same day that Benedict XVI. received the news of the death reached his brother, with whom he had been ordained a priest on the same day in 1951, the Vatican expert Aldo Maria Valli revealed that Francis had placed the community of Memores Domini under provisional administration. The corresponding decree comes from the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which had been established by Francis in 2016, in which the Pontifical Council for the Laity is, and to which the Community reports as a lay Association.
Francis has appointed Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, who until his retirement, was a professor of canon law at the Roman Jesuit University Gregoriana. He is to perrform the "revision process" for the statutes of the Memores Domini.
The decree and the subpoena
The leadership of the community, elected for a five-year term in 2018, was summoned to read the papal decree on June 26 in the presence of Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Roman Dicastery. Present were Antonella Frongillo, the President of Memores Domini and board members and managers of some houses of the same. Father Ghirlanda was also present, outlining the line of his action.
As is customary in such cases, the reason for the papal intervention can only be guessed at. Cardinal Farrell said in the summons that some of the statutes had to be changed, but despite a corresponding announcement by the chair in May 2018, the Vatican had no concrete proposal. For this reason, the dicastery decided "in agreement with the Pope" to appoint P. Ghirlanda as papal delegate, so that he would "lead the revision process of the directorate and the statutes". The cardinal let something through: Part of the duties of the de facto Commissar was also to "fix some problems that were reported to the dicastery".The decree criticizes the dual function of Don Carrón as superior of CL, who is also the spiritual assistant of Memores Domini. There is a lack of the necessary separation between the leadership function and spiritual guidance, which affects the conscience and freedom of the individual.
On June 2, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the chairwoman, according to Cardinal Farrell, to "keep watch over the good practice of the charisms." Almost identical words had taken the Pope on March 7, 2015 when he received the whole of the community leadership Communion and Liberation (CL) and tens of thousands of its members on the occasion of its 60th founding anniversary on St. Peter's Square. At that time, the choice of words was a reproachful reference to the “danger of self-centeredness”. It was previously known that the conservative community was not among the Argentine Pope's preferred groups. "Francis did not approve of the founding charism of CL, but put it on the index," said Vaticanist Sandro Magister at the time.
Only as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires did he maintain close contacts with the so-called Roman Community. Andrea Tornielli, the house and court Vaticanista and now editor-in-chief with coordination and guidelines for all Vatican media, comes from this circle of just six people. Nevertheless, the harshness with which Francis admonished the community in March 2015 was surprising. He literally accused CL of stifling the fire and extinguishing the embers:
"Don Giussani would never forgive you if you lost your freedom and turned into a museum guide or admirer of the ashes."
Obviously, the problems “were not resolved from the Holy See's perspective,” said Aldo Maria Valli.
The identity crisis
The papal delegate P. Ghirlanda has been given all powers to take charge of the community. He himself said in his speech that the Holy Spirit is the Church and "not only given to members of an association", which is why the revision of the statutes is "fully responsible to the Church". He named Christ, the Church and the founder as points of reference for the revision, but "just as fundamental" were also "the spiritual experience" that the members lived and live as a point of reference.
“It is what makes the charism alive and able to respond to the different situations in society and the Church. And only through the members does the charism live on in time. ”
In what in detail Pope Francis and the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life may be objecting, the fact is that Communion and Liberation (CL) is in a difficult situation, with the death of its founder, Don Luigi Giussani, who died in the same year as Pope John Paul II, they were at a conclusion, but this became unmistakable under Francis. Giussani's successor, Don Julián Carrón, could not really fill the gap. With the choice of Francis and the resulting shift in coordinates, the compass got a little confused. The disorientation was most evident at the Rimini meeting, a major event organized annually by the community. Dilution and political correctness were objected to. This was seen as an unmistakable signal for identity problems.
It is doubtful, however, that the brusque intervention of the Holy See should serve the original, controversial charisma that characterized and distinguished CL especially in the late 70s and 80s. Don Giussani said in the tough years of the student protest after 1968 that led to the loneliness of Paul VI. that CL would have to get to the point where it would be possible to fill St. Peter's Square on its own and to rally around the Pope if everyone else let the representative of Christ down. This has been working without problems for some time, as was last demonstrated on March 7, 2015. Pope Francis was not impressed by what was thought of by Don Giussani as allegiance to the Church's external enemies,as his harsh criticism of the assembled community showed.
The signs have changed under Francis: As a conservative community, CL is in an almost insoluble dilemma, a kind of identity trap, when it tries to pander. There are quite a few who no longer recognize CL as what Don Giussani wanted. The mental tension that once gave rise to numerous initiatives seems to have waned. This fact takes into account the current Church leadership, but hardly with the intention to use the justified criticism for a renewal in the spirit of Don Giussani, as former leading CL representatives fear. "Can the fox give the chickens tutoring in self-defense?" As it is said in Rome.
P. Ghirlanda made one thing clear to the Community Superiors of Memores Domini: It needs "docility" which requires "a lot of humility" for the upcoming process. It is about "distinguishing what comes from the good spirit and what comes from the evil spirit", which "often disguises himself as an angel of light".
In Rome it is speculated that the four Memores Domini who work for Benedict XVI could also be affected by the dispatch of a Commissar,run the household and live with him in the monastery Mater Ecclesiae. There is concern that, on the pretext of provisional administration, they could be withdrawn and replaced by others whose obedience is to an alien entity.