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Pope Benedict XVI has closed down a historic monastery in Rome after a Vatican investigation revealed “liturgical and financial irregularities.”
The monastery was attached to the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which was built in 320 AD to house sacred relics brought back from the Holy Land by the mother of Emperor Constantine I. Its former abbot, Father Simone Fioraso, is credited with raising its profile through a number of outreach initiatives. Fioraso had been a fashion designer prior to taking his vows and he quickly gained a reputation for flamboyance. In addition to renovating Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Fioraso and the monks also opened a hotel and began a regular concert series. The monastery quickly became popular with celebrities, including Madonna and Gloria Estefan.
In 2009, the monastery invited Sister Anna Nobili, a former nightclub dancer who had become a nun, to perform her “holy dance” at once of their concerts. Nobili’s dance routine involved lying spread-eagled in front of the altar while clutching a crucifix and gyrating in a manner reminiscent of a pole dancing routine. Nobili said that her unorthodox behavior was a form of prayer, telling La Repubblica at the time that “I dance for God and I’m happy. All my choreography is dedicated to Him. My aim is to pray using my body.”
That same year it was alleged that organic food sold in the monastery gift shop was actually taken from the shelves of local supermarkets.
Abbot Fioraso was removed from his post in 2009, but the monastery’s woes have continued. Recently, the Pope ordered an ‘apostolic visitation’ of the monastery in his capacity as Bishop of Rome. The results of the investigation were transmitted to the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Pope ultimately decided to dissolve the monastery. The reasoning behind the unusual decision has not been released, though Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said that “their lifestyles were not in keeping with what one would expect of monks.”
The twenty Cistercian monks who live in the monastery will be transferred to other monasteries around Italy.