General Chapter of the Cistercian Order
The general chapter ( Latin capitulum abbatum ) is an assembly of the abbots - and today also abbesses - of all Cistercians . The expression is now known in many orders, but has its origin in the 12th century in the constitutional text of the Cistercians, the Carta Caritatis . The chapter of monks has been around since the Rule of Benedict , which arose in the 6th century.
It originally took place in Cîteaux , the first monastery of the Cistercians . The General Chapter is the Order's supreme body in the field of justice and fraternal assistance. It ensures that all resolutions already taken as well as the guidelines of the Charter Caritatis are observed. It functioned as a horizontal link (in contrast to the vertical connection between the Cistercians through the filiation and visitation principle) and, thanks to the rapid spread of the order, quickly advanced to a central and identity-creating body, especially during the founding period. All abbots were obliged to participate, even if their monasteries were far away, for example in Scotland or Romania .
The chapter regulated disciplinary questions, but also ensured that Cistercians in need received the support of the order. After the initial annual chapters, the interval between the meetings grew larger and larger. Because of the decline of the order triggered by the French Revolution , no general chapter took place between 1786 and 1869.
A distinction must be made today between the general chapters of the Cistercians and those of the Trappists, who split off from them in 1892 . The General Chapter of the Cistercians usually meets in Rome , but the venue is arbitrary.
General Chapter since the French Revolution
(1869/1870) in the Roman monastery of San Bernardo alle Terme
This General Chapter - it met in Rome from April 6 to 16, 1896 - is in brackets because only abbots from three congregations (Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Italy) took part, a total of 17 people with 20 votes. In the invitations it was called the General Chapter, but it did not have a quorum for the entire order.
Procurator General Teobaldi Cesari had already tried in 1864 to convene a general chapter of all Cistercian observances, but failed because of the abbots of the strict observance, who replied refused.
1880 in the Vienna Heiligenkreuzerhof
The General Chapter became necessary because a decree of the Holy See of March 5, 1879 resolved to replace the office of Abbot General of the Order from the General President of the Italian Congregation; In addition, the previous Abbot General Teobaldo Cesari died 55 days after the decree was published . The General Procurator Smeulders took over the planning of the general chapter, which led to difficulties, namely in the local question. After one could not decide between Vienna and Rome, Abbot Smeulders brought the tricky situation to the prefect of the religious congregation, Cardinal Innocenzo Ferrieri. After Abbot Gregorio Bartolini had been appointed as transitional president and the general chapter was postponed, the Holy See decided by decree of October 3, 1879, Vienna as the meeting place. The people to be invited were also specified in the decree; the monasteries of the Strict Observance were not included. Abbot Smeulders convened the chapter with a letter dated October 22, 1879. It opened on April 29th.
15 superiors and the General Procurator took part, 12 were excused and sent their votes by post, of which 5 votes from the Congregation of Sénanque were not admitted on the grounds that these monks only had simple vows. So there were 23 voters, 16 of whom were present. The chapter met in 2 sessions and was closed on April 30th. Abbot Bartolini received an absolute majority (13 votes) for the office of Abbot General, Smeulders was confirmed in his office as General Procurator. On June 4, 1880, Pope Leo XIII confirmed. the elections.
1891 in the Vienna Heiligenkreuzerhof
The General Chapter of 1891 met on June 17, 1891 in the Heiligenkreuzerhof in Vienna. It was convened because the sudden death of the previous Abbot General Gregorio Bartolini had made it necessary to elect a new Abbot General. A total of 21 abbots and ruling priors of the general observance were entitled to vote. Representatives of the strict ( Trappist ) and middle observance (Senanque) were not invited. The Austro-Hungarian congregation (with Mehrerau) had 13 voting participants, the Italian congregation four and the Belgian congregation two. Then there were the Abbot of Marienstatt ( Dominikus Willi ) and the General Procurator Henricus Smeulders.
Since all important questions, u. a. The exemption from the residence in Rome had already been clarified in advance, the general chapter, including the mass, lasted only five hours. It began at 8 a.m. with a Holy Mass, after which the General Procurator declared the chapter open and gave those present the blessing of the Holy Father. Subsequently, the abbots von Lilienfeld ( Alberich Heidmann ) and von Vallis Dei (Andreas Beeris Bornhem) were appointed as scrutators: The Hohenfurt abbot Leopold Wackarž was elected Abbot General , but because of his advanced age - he was 81 - asked a younger man to take over the office Transfer candidates. However, the request was refused and Wackarž became Abbot General. In addition, the abbots of Rein ( Candidus Zapfl ), Heiligenkreuz ( Heinrich Grünbeck ), Lilienfeld (Alberich Heidmann) and Ossegg ( Meinrad Siegl ) were elected as assistants to the Abbot General. The representatives of the Austro-Hungarian Order Province elected Abbot Candidus Zapfl von Rein as Vicar General. In addition, the General Procurator Henricus Smeulders was unanimously re-elected.
At the request of the General Procurator, it was also decided that the general observance of the Cistercian Order should in future consist of the Italian Congregation and three vicariates - the Belgian, the Swiss-German and the Austro-Hungarian. Since the Vatican Congregation for the Order confirmed the resolutions on July 20, 1891, the existence of a Swiss-German congregation was officially recognized and confirmed (later called Mehrerauer Congregation ).
The General Chapter of 1897 met from June 24th to 25th, 1897 in the Cistercian Monastery of Hohenfurt, immediately following the provincial chapter (June 22nd and 23rd) of the Austro-Hungarian Cistercian Congregation. Eighteen chapter fathers, two notaries and two secretaries were present. It was chaired by Abbot General Leopold Wackarž von Hohenfurt, whose term of office, like that of Procurator General Mauro Tinti, had already been extended by two years in advance by the Religious Congregation.
Abbot General Wackarž opened the chapter with a comprehensive report on his six-year term. Abbot President Augustin Stöckli von Mehrerau reported on the Swiss-German congregation. The difficult question of the legal position of the women's monasteries was postponed to the next general chapter. The revised statutes of the Austro-Hungarian Cistercian Province (Prague statutes from 1859) received their approval; In addition, a resolution was passed on the manner in which the secular celebration of the founding of Cîteaux was to be held in 1898, and a decision was made to print a general scheme for the entire order.
The question of the reunification of the two orders raised by individual Cistercians of the stricter observance ("Trappists") was discussed but rejected as impracticable and undesirable.
At the suggestion of General Procurator Tinti, the elaboration of electoral regulations for the election of the Abbot General and the Superiors was decided by a commission.
1900 in the Roman monastery of Santa Croce
The chapter met from October 1st to 6th. There were long negotiations about the location of the conference in Rome, after all the Congregation for Religious Affairs insisted on Rome and the abbot general's residence obligation in Rome, which began at the end of the chapter. It was the first Cistercian general chapter in Rome. For the first time since the French Revolution it was possible to seriously negotiate some religious constitutions. The decision to split off the Trappists from the Cistercian order in 1892 was consolidated in a Trappist general chapter in 1898, so that there was no prospect of reunification.
The general chapter had three focal points: 1. the election of an abbot general, procurator general and the four assistants of the abbot general, 2. advice on and creation of new constitutions of the order and 3. the residence obligation of the abbot general in Rome.
The first four sessions, chaired by Cardinal Protector Agliardi , served to elect the Abbot General. The abbot of the Belgian monastery of Bornhem, Amadeus de Bie was elected in the third session with 27 of 29 votes. His term of office was set retrospectively, in the fourth session, for life.
The rights and duties of the Abbot General were laid down as follows: 1. He is the supreme head of the Order and has to watch over the observance of the monasteries, as well as to take care of monasteries that have got into trouble; 2. He is not entitled to enact laws or to dispose of the goods or persons of the communities; 3. He must not intervene in the constitutions of the congregations; 4. Tasks that fall within the competence of the general chapter should be carried out by it; 5. He has to seek the advice of his assistants in important decisions; 6. He confirms the elections for abbot and prior; 7. He approves the liturgical books of the Order; 8. He can give ecclesiastical printing permission for publications that have been written by members of the order.
A constitutional text was submitted in 1901 and approved ad experimentum in 1902 , but it took a long time, namely until 1981, until the Order of Cîteaux received an ordinary constitution.
The chapter met from October 1st to 5th. The Osservatore Romano reported on 50 chapter fathers, but there were only 30 eligible voters who gathered in the Generalate House of the Premonstratensian this Holy Year . The abbeys of Bronnbach and Himmerod , two recently revived abbeys, were able to send their abbots for the first time since the general chapter was reinstated.
The advisory material was divided into three groups: Relationes (reports), Exposures (presentations) and Postulata (applications). The first three days (October 1st - 3rd) were reserved for this, October 4th was free for individual consultations, and October 5th was reserved for the final session. After the end of the last session around 11 a.m., the Chapter Fathers were in private audience with Pope Pius XI. receive. Then the Pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, received the Abbot General and the assistants for an audience.
The meeting had consequences beyond the subject matter of the chapter, namely because of the large-scale Vatican Mission Exhibition that took place in 1925 , which was viewed by many participants after the chapter. At least two chapter fathers, the Austrian Alois Wiesinger (Abbot von Schlierbach) and Justin Wöhrer (1872–1943; Prior von Wilhering), were enthusiastic about start-ups in mission countries. Establishments in Brazil and Bolivia followed.
Cardinal van Rossum , the cardinal-protector of the Cistercians, whose titular church had been the abbey church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme belonging to the order since 1915 , could not appear at the general chapter for health reasons. Reporters were astonished that no representative of the Curia dealt with the meeting during the entire process.
The irregular general chapter was called because the urgent question of acquiring a generalate house for the order was pending. Since the expropriation of Cîteaux Abbey in the course of the French Revolution, there had been no representative seat for the Abbot General. Abbot General Kassian Haid ordered that German-speaking participants at the General Chapter should arrive eight days earlier in order to do spiritual exercises with the rector of the Canisianum in the Mehrerau Abbey . Apparently serious decisions were imminent.
The chapter fathers decided to purchase the Villa Stolberg on the Gianicolo for the order. After this decision, the next serious decision was made. The Vatican Congregation for Religious Affairs had requested a change in the statutes of the Cistercian Order: the Vatican insisted on the residence obligation of the Abbot General in Rome. However, Haid had accepted the office of general in 1920 on the condition that he could stay in the Austrian Abbey of Mehrerau (Bregenz).
Now it became understandable why the eight-day retreat had preceded the General Chapter, because the entire situation of the Order's leadership had suddenly changed. The fathers voted. Franziskus Janssens was elected as the new Abbot General .
The Chapter took place with 38 Chapter Fathers from August 6th to 8th.
In the first session the incorporation of the Congregation of Casamari , the financing of the Curia Generalis, visitation reports from various congregations and reports on the new foundations in Spring Bank, Wisconsin and Apolo, Bolivia were discussed.
The second session dealt with the question of the Priores regentes in the Casamari Congregation and appointed Matthäus Quatember , Karl Kreh and Placidus Hülster to deal with it.
The third session opened the second chapter day (August 7, 1930). In it, Abbot General Janssens reported on visitations in the Congregatio Sancti Bernardi in Italia and the Sacred Heart (Austro-Hungarian) Congregation. The Abbot General emphasized how important it is for the religious youth to complete their theology studies in a Cistercian monastery, in this case he praised the Institutum Theologicum in Heiligenkreuz. The need for qualified novice masters was also emphasized; here he praised Himmerod Abbey . The Abbot of Marienstatt reported on the formation of candidates for the Konverseninstitut. The abbot of the Zirc monastery reported on the five high schools of the congregation, which are attended by a total of 2,475 students. Zircer Fathers also look after 45 parishes. Abbot General Janssens reported on the indebtedness of the Generalate House of the Order.
The fourth session continued to deal with the question of the debts of the House in Rome. This was followed by a discussion of a new edition of the Rituale Cisterciense. Janssens criticized the inconsistent observation of the customs in the various monasteries of the order. To create unity, a new ritual should be published. P. Gallus Weiher von Mehrerau is to dedicate himself to this edition together with Fathers from Kloster Sittich . This was followed by a discussion of liturgical matters, particularly those relating to the Calendarium Cisterciense .
The third day of the General Chapter (August 8, 1930) began with the fifth session. It was dedicated to the election of the General Procurator and the General's assistants. As assistants (in the history of the Order they are also called Definitors ) were elected: Abbot André Drilhon von Lérins, Abbot Theobald Scharnagl von Osek, Abbot Adolph Werner von Zirc and Abbot Angelo Savastano von Casamari. Abbot Raymund Bazzichi, who had served in this office since 1920, was re-elected as General Procurator. Fr. Matthew Quatember was appointed notary public for the Order.
The sixth and final session was devoted to the question of the canonical establishment of new foundations. In this context, the Abbot of Osek gave a lecture on the new nunnery in Allerselv (Denmark) and the Abbot of Parakeet on a planned start-up in Russia. The North American foundations in Spring Bank, on the Mississippi River and in the city of Montreal were also mentioned. The Abbot of Marienstatt reported on the Konverseninstitut and the history of the lay brothers in the order. A monastery under diocesan law in Vietnam had inquired about admission to the order, but at this point in time the chapter fathers knew too little about it. Only after an abbot had traveled there and reported to the chapter, so was the opinion of the capitulars, the admission would be possible.
This chapter was convened on the occasion of the Holy Year and held in the Generalate House in the Villa Stolberg on the Gianicolo (Via Giacomo Medici 3) from October 11th to 15th. In the first session, Cardinal Luigi Sincero was given the Order as protector, since Cardinal van Rossum had died on August 30, 1932. Sincero was present during the first session of the general chapter. Abbot General Franziskus Janssens used the first meeting as an opportunity to report on news in the Order. The question of the Priores regentes from the Congregatio Sancti Bernardi in Italia and their participation as eligible voters in the General Chapter dominated the further course of this session.
In the second session the admission of the Vietnamese priory Phuoc-Son was approved. Abbot Andreas Drilhon von Lérins had, as the person responsible for the expansion of the order in Canada and Vietnam, reported very positively about the Cistercians in Vietnam. Abbot Angelus Savastano of Casamari proposed a beatification process for the martyrs from his monastery who were killed by Napoleonic troops in 1799. Abbot Alois Wiesinger , Father immediacyus of the Spring Bank monastery in the Diocese of Milwaukee , reported on the financial and personal needs of the monastery and received promised help from the chapter fathers. About nunneries in Spain, the Hardehausen monastery in Westphalia, re-established in 1927 , new foundations in Bolivia, collections for the expansion of the order in mission countries and the establishment of a monastery in Untermais (South Tyrol).
The third session was an editorial discussion of the Constitutions for the Cistercian Order that had to be submitted to the Congregation for Religious. Articles 1-18 were discussed.
The fourth session began after a requiem for Cardinal van Rossum; Abbot President Gregor Pöck was on the board. Among the reports, that of the Delegate of the Casamari Congregation stood out because it was not established until 1929. It used to be close to the Trappist observance. The congregation could report on a successful missionary activity in Ethiopia. The term of office of an abbot was fixed for life. For the sake of unity, the name of the order was set to Sacer Ordo Cisterciensis (with abbreviation SOCist.) Instead of Ordo Cisterciensis (O.Cist.).
On October 13th and 15th the commission for the drafting of the Constitutions met (Articles 14-103 were discussed) and the Liturgy Commission.
The fifth session took place on the morning of October 14th and was devoted to the work of the Commissions on the Constitution and the Liturgy. At 10 o'clock, Cardinal Lépicier , Prefect of the Congregation for the Religious, visited the Chapter and gave a speech to the Fathers. At 1 p.m., the chapter fathers of Pope Pius XI. received in audience. Thereby Abbot General Janssens presented the Pope with the Peterspfennig.
The sixth session took place on October 14th, after the papal audience, at 4 p.m. Abbot Eberhard Hoffmann von Marienstatt had a statute for a Konverseninstitut for discussion. The questions about the profession of the Conversation Brothers, their monastic training and their prayer quota remained open.
The General Chapter closed with the seventh session on October 15 at 5:30 p.m.
The community that has formed around the former Trappist Alexis Presse is allowed to join the Cistercian order. In Boquen Abbey , an original form of the Cistercian rite was reconstructed for the celebration of mass.
1953 Rome, in the Curia Generalis
The general chapter became extraordinary, as part of the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the death of Bernhard von Clairvaux for the 7th-11th May 1953 convened in the Generalate House on the Aventine in Rome. Procurator General Sighard Kleiner presided over the General Chapter as Abbot General Matthäus Quatember died on February 10th. Abbot President Karl Braunstorfer presided over the Holy Spirit Office at the beginning of the chapter . The shadow of communist dictatorships was clearly expressed in the enumeration of the absent chapter fathers: 7 of 11 absent were prevented for political reasons, of these seven two were in custody: Abbot Wendelin Endredy of Zirc (1898-1981) and the prior of Phuoc-Son in Vietnam.
The first session of the chapter continued with Braunstorfer's report on the Bernhard celebrations; he particularly emphasized the edition of the works of St. Bernhard, who had entrusted Abbot General Quatember to the well-known Benedictine Father Jean Leclercq (1911–1993). Kleiner continued with a reference to Bernhard's symbolic presence during the General Chapter, which he had often attended during his lifetime.
In the second session telegrams were sent to Pope Pius XII. , the Cardinal Protector of the Order Pietro Fumasoni Biondi and the Prefect of the Religious Congregation Valerio Cardinal Valeri . The Chapter Fathers continued with Bernhard studies, e.g. B. the constitution of a Bernhard prefation for the Holy Mass and the continuation of the Mehrerauer Bernhard edition . Abbot Alois Wiesinger von Schlierbach presented a book in honor of the father of the order, the prior of Spring Bank (USA) presented an English history of the Cistercian order; A similar book was in preparation by the Austrian abbeys; the Analecta Cisterciensia had prepared a special issue. Sighard Kleiner announced the regulation of indulgences associated with attending the Bernardi celebrations. An encyclical in honor of the saint was requested from the Pope, which appeared soon afterwards under the title Doctor mellifluus . The session continued with the discussion of familiars in the Cistercian order: whether they are allowed to take vows, whether they are public or private, whether they are allowed to wear habit, whether they are bound by a breviary.
In the third session the election of the Abbot General took place. 44 elected chapter fathers were present: Sighard Kleiner emerged from the first ballot as the elected Abbot General. Later that day, negotiations continued about the Bernhard prefation and the familiars. Questions about individual monasteries of the order were discussed, as well as two planned new foundations, one in Pakistan and a revival of the former Cistercian monastery Villers-la-Ville in Belgium.
The fourth session dealt largely with the dire situation of the monasteries in Vietnam. They have suffered persecution since 1949, and many of the monks were expelled. In 1951, Phuoc-ly Monastery in Central Vietnam was established to provide refuge for the monks. The Vietnamese confreres asked the General Chapter for three things: 1. To be allowed to build another house in the diocese of Saigon or Haiphong in order to be able to offer the monks more security. 2. Material help in the form of liturgical books and vestments. 3. Support in setting up a printing company.
In the fifth session, on May 9, 1953, Gregorio Battista was elected General Procurator of the Order. Later that day, questions about the nuns ' retreat were discussed, as the recently published Constitution Sponsa Christi differentiated the "big" from the "small" retreat. At 3:30 p.m. Cardinal Fumasoni Bondi visited the Chapter Fathers in the Generalate.
The sixth session began at 4.30 p.m. on May 9, after the departure of the Cardinal Protector. The session dealt with liturgical questions, financial support for Vietnamese Cistercians and the editorial revision of a statute for the nuns.
On May 10, a Sunday, Archbishop Luigi Traglia consecrated the high altar in the newly built chapel of the Generalate House; he stayed for lunch. The seventh chapter session opened at 4:30 p.m. The Chapter Fathers discussed the establishment of a study library in the Generalate House, the obolus for the Holy See, and the appointment of assistants to work in the Generalate. Conversation brothers were allowed to make profession in the Generalate House, but not monks. The Oberschönenfeld convent got permission to build a convent in Brazil.
With the eighth session on May 11th, which was mainly devoted to eventualities, the General Chapter ended at 1.40 p.m.
The two monasteries founded in the United States, Spring Bank and Dallas, are elevated to abbeys.
1968/1969 Rome (1968) / Marienstatt (1969)
This one general chapter was divided into two sessions in order to do justice to the large scope of the subject to be dealt with after the Second Vatican Council .
Abbesses receive the right to vote.
2005 Rome (Rocca di Papa)
Since the Abbot General has repeatedly pointed out the option for the young members of the Order, the General Chapter 2005 has elected new members to the Council of the Abbot General who will help him in his administration. The Council of the Abbot General has written a letter to the Presides of the Congregations in preparation for the XVI. Synod of the Order and another letter to all superiors of the Order, which was to be understood as a post-synodal invitation and a preparation for the coming General Chapter, because the Council of the Abbot General is also the preparatory committee for the General Chapter.
2010 Rome (Rocca di Papa)
The chapter lasted from August 30th to September 11th and met, as in 1995, in the Mondo Migliore house. Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori , formerly the ruling abbot of Hauterive, was elected to succeed Abbot General Maurus Esteva Alsina .
2015 Rome (Rocca di Papa)
The chapter met in Rome from October 6th to 18th, 2015. Lluc Torcal, prior of Poblet Abbey, was elected procurator general.
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- Convocation of the General Chapter 2010 ( Memento from June 21, 2010 in the Internet Archive )