In November 2001, at the meeting taking place at Nairobi, Kenya, after a consultation process with all the monasteries of Benedictine Women around the world, it was decided to use the name COMMUNIO INTERNATIONALIS BENEDICTINARUM (CIB) to designate all communities of Benedictine women recognised by the Abbot Primate as such and enlisted in the Catalogus Monasteriorum O.S.B. This was the culmination of a development taking place since the Second Vatican Council—as well as the beginning of a new era for Benedictine Women.
Sr Lynn Marie McKenzie, Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, Alabama USA
Sr Franziska Lukas, Abbess of St Scholastika Abbey, Dinklage, Germany
Abbess Anna Brennan, England
M. Cecile Lañas, Philippines
Abbess Hilda Scott, Oceania
M. Maria del Mar Albajar i Viñas of Sant Benet Monastery, Montserrat (Barcelona)
Sr. Mary Luke Jones of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana
Information about the structure of the CIB
Comprehensive information about the CIB can be found in the Memorandum and the Handbook.
‘The Founding of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum, 1965 – 2009’ by Sr Scholastika Häring of Dinklage
History of the CIB
Background: The Benedictine Confederation
Between 1886 and 1893 Pope Leo XIII took steps towards the setting up of the Benedictine Confederation, the structure for networking between the congregations of Benedictine men existing at that time, with the Abbot Primate as a unifying figure at the head of the community at S. Anselmo in Rome. The purpose of the Confederation was to create and consolidate international contact between the Benedictine monasteries of men with a view to furthering the common tradition of western monasticism and to prepare the monks through serious study for their service in the Church in the 20th century. There was no parallel foundation for Benedictine women. Gradually women’s monasteries and congregations were admitted by association into the Benedictine Confederation, but without full membership. Their status in the Confederation gave them no opportunity to support each other through regular meetings and international contact.
First Steps Towards Networking Between Benedictine Women
after Vactian II (1968 – 1988)
In Paragraph 23 of the Decree “Perfectae Caritatis”, that Council document concerning the renewal of religious life, conferences and councils of major superiors are expressly encouraged as a means of bringing small communities out of isolation and of sharing potential. Since 1893 the Abbots’ Congress had been such a conference of major superiors including all the monasteries of Benedictine men. From around 1965 on it was becoming clear, that something must be done to create a similar possibility for Benedictine Women.
The Synod of Abbot Presidents under Abbot Primate Rembert Weakland voted that the Abbot Primate should form a Commission for nuns and sisters and that this commission should be divided into two sections, one for nuns and one for sisters, but both under the same secretary. It was also decided that these two consultative bodies should be formed from an equal number of men and women. (Circular letter of the Abbot Primate to Benedictine women dated October 28, 1968.) These two Commissions met separately with the Abbot Primate a number of times during the next few years.
At the Synod of Presidents it was decided to invite the Commission of Nuns and several Prioresses General of the Benedictine Sisters to the Congress of Abbots as observers.
The Confederation organised a Centenary Symposium to celebrate the 1500 anniversary of the birth of St. Benedict. As representatives of the women 55 abbesses/prioresses were invited. This was the first time that Benedictine Abbesses and Prioresses, Moniales and Sorores, from different traditions and different parts of the world met together in Rome – as yet only as guests of the Abbots’ Congress.
The two commissions met for the first time together to discuss possibilities of a joint meeting of nuns and sisters.
The Benedictine Sisters invited 16 nuns to join 40 sisters at an assembly on the theme: “Implications of the Benedictine Rule for the life of Benedictine Women,” in Casa Santo Spirito, the Generalate of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing in Rome. This first Symposium organised by the sisters broke new ground for co-operation between nuns and sisters.
The two Commissions under Abbot Primate Victor Dammertz merged. Membership was to be delegated to women representing 18 regions (later 19 regions) throughout the world, as well a Prioress General of an international congregation with its Motherhouse in Rome and a representative of the organisation AIM. An Executive Committee was to organise a next joint Symposium. The Executive Committee drafted the first statutes of the Commission with the help of Abbot Primate Viktor.