Cistercian abbey suppressed: Disco dancing nuns disbursed

The Vatican has formally suppressed the famous Santa Croce, Cistercian abbey in Rome, where a community of monks has been based for more than five centuries.

The basilica had become a hub for the Friends of Santa Croce, an aristocratic group, and had been criticised for some unorthodox practices including

  • opening a hotel with a 24 hours limousine service
  • in 2009, Anna Nobili, a nightclub dancer who became a nun, was invited to perform her “holy dance” before an audience including archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s cultural department. For her performance Nobili, who says she uses dance as a form of prayer, lies spread-eagled in front of the altar clutching a crucifix or twists and turns as in pole-dancing routines,
  • the community hosting VIPs like Madonna, earning the disfavour of the Vatican, and
  • opening a shop selling organic produce ostensibly from their kitchen garden, but having been purchased from the neighbourhood grocery.

The community’s days seemed to be numbered two years ago when its longtime abbot, Simone Fioraso, a flamboyant former Milan fashion designer, was moved out.

The suppression follows an apostolic visitation of the Cistercian community in Rome that found evidence of liturgical and financial irregularities as well as lifestyles that were probably not in keeping with that of a monk.

The suppression order was signed by the prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, Archbishop Joao Braz de Aziz.

The Vatican has not made a public announcement of the unusual move, nor have officials of the Holy See offered an explanation for the decision, however the community’s suppression appears to be the final outcome of a long conflict with the Vatican.

The Cistercian monks living in the monastery were given two months to relocate to another abbey.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, built around a chapel dating to the fourth century, is one of Rome’s oldest and most prestigious churches.


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