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Giovanni Battista Montini, Montserrat and Benedictine spirituality

· The anniversary of the death of Paul VI ·

The sign and seal of an entire human and spiritual event in the mystery of the Transfiguration

“The news of Montserrat delights me and edifies me: in omnem terram exivit sonus eorum! This is the function of similar centres of most high spirituality! And how well the monastery fulfills it!” So wrote Mons. Giovanni Batttista Montini, Archbishop of Milan on July 30, 1958, to Fr. Gabriel Braso’, prior of the Catalan Benedictine Monastery. Although he was invited by the monastic community several times, Montini never visited Montserrat, probably due to the Spanish political situation. Nonetheless, he maintained frequent correspondence with Prior Braso and with Abbot Aureli Escarre’ who, in 1946, was succeeded by Antoni Marcet, among the principal promoters in the first half of the 1900’s, of the cultural re-birth of Montserrat. A still-unpublished correspondence, conserved in the Montini foundation of the Milan Diocese Archives, attests to the fact, as well as the various meetings between the Archbishop and Escarre’ and Braso’.

A special “spiritual tie,” united Milan and Montserrat, according to Montini, which was intensified in the years of the long Ambrosian episcopate of Benedictine Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster, and had its most remote origins “in the noble figure of Pius XI.” To pay homage to the Pontiff, Abott Escarre’ wrote to Montini on the occasion of the birth of Ratti, in 1957, remembering his kind attention to the Catalan abbey. Escarre highlighted that, “Montserrat venerates Pius XI as one of its great benefactors. Our monastery and my predecessor received from him testimony of benevolence, paternal affection. On the occasion of the war in Spain, He welcomed with kind gestures of charity our exiled monks and sustained them spiritually and materially.”

In fact, from the Benedictine monastery – which in July 1936, with the outbreak of the red revolution in Barcelona, had to confront raids and pillages, and eventually the martyrdom and exile of many of its monks – Pius XI recalled to Rome, in the direct service of the Holy See, Fathers Anselm Albareda and Gregori Sunyol, assigning them the duties of presiding over, respectively, the Apostolic Vatican Library and the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. “Personally,” continued Abbot Escarre’s letter to Montini, - who himself had taken refuge in Rome at the College of San Anselmo – I remain deeply impressed by the last audience granted by Pius XI to Abbot Father Marcet, my predecessor. On that occasion, I accompanied my Abbot, and the Holy Father affirmed to us: “Of our friends, there is only one we will never lack: Jesus Christ.” These words made me deeply understand the sense of the supernatural. And it was also the first time that a Pope embraced me.”

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