Pope Benedict XVI will make a pastoral visit tomorrow to Montecassino, Italy. The monastery, 73 miles from Rome, was founded by St. Benedict around 529 and is where he developed the Rule of St. Benedict.
The Pope is due to arrive by helicopter in the town of Cassino at 10.15 a.m.. There, he will preside at a Eucharistic concelebration and give a homily in the city’s Piazza Miranda.
Then, having prayed the Regina Coeli, he will travel by car to the abbey of Montecassino, making a brief stop at the Casa della Carita (House of Charity) in Cassino.
The Holy Father will lunch at the abbey, greet the monastic community, and, at 5 p.m., celebrate Vespers with Benedictine abbots and communities of Benedictine monks and nuns in the abbey’s basilica. He will also deliver a homily there.
Benedict’s last engagement will be a private visit to the Polish military cemetery at Montecassino before departing for the Vatican around 6.30 p.m.
Just as St. Benedict had a profound influence on Europe and Western civilization, so has the monastery he founded been a mirror of the turbulence that Christendom has experienced over the centuries.
Not long after its founding, the monastery was destroyed in 577 by the Lombards. It was later rebuilt and made much grander following a visit from the Emperor Charlemagne in 787.
However, it was destroyed again, in 881, by the Saracens (Arabs) and once more by an earthquake in 1349.
The monastery then enjoyed six hundred years of relative peace until it was destroyed a fourth time. In just three hours on Feb. 15, 1944, it was reduced to rubble, caught in a deadly battle between German and Allied forces during the closing stages of World War II.
The abbey was rebuilt over ten years after the war, according to the ancient architectural pattern — an endeavor exclusively financed by the Italian state.
The Holy Father has great affection for the Rule of St. Benedict and Benedictine spirituality, which is part of the reason why he chose Benedict as his papal name.