The Argentinian nuns who will form a monastic community at Mater Ecclesiae 

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Jan 5 2024

Six nuns of the Benedictine Order from the Abbey of Santa Scholastica in Victoria, Argentina, accompanied by their Abbess, are welcomed in the Vatican by the president of the Governorate. They will form a monastic community in the Monastery, which served as Benedict XVI’s home after his resignation and until his death.

The Argentine Benedictine nuns invited by Pope Francis to reside in Mater Ecclesiae, the monastery in the heart of the Vatican Gardens that was the home of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, for almost a decade after his historic resignation, arrived on Wednesday morning, January 3rd.

The six nuns belong to the Benedictine Order of the Abbey of Santa Scholastica in Victoria, Buenos Aires Province (Diocese of San Isidro), Argentina. The Pope had invited them with a handwritten letter dated Oct 1, 2023, and the nuns “generously accepted the invitation.”

A warm welcome

The nuns were welcomed by Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, President of the Vatican Governorate, who went to Fiumicino Airport at dawn to greet them. As stipulated by the Pope, the Governorate is responsible for all matters concerning Mater Ecclesiae.

The nuns were accompanied by the Abbess of Santa Scholastica in Victoria. Upon their arrival at Mater Ecclesiae, they all visited the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens to sing and pray before the statue of Our Lady, an identical copy of the effigy venerated in Massabielle.

St John Paul II’s intuition

Thus, Mater Ecclesiae, which has never ceased to be a place of prayer, has returned to being the residence of contemplative orders, as desired by Pope St John Paul II.

With the Brief “La vita contemplativa” of Mar 25, 1994, he canonically established a Monastery of contemplative religious in Vatican City to “support the Holy Father in his daily care for the whole Church through the ministry of prayer, adoration, praise, and reparation, thus being a praying presence in silence and solitude.”

Pope John Paul II dedicated the monastery to Mary Mother of the Church; hence its name Mater Ecclesiae. According to the monastery’s statutes, there was a rotation of different monastic orders every five years. The last nuns had been there until November 2012, after which restoration work began.

“Benedict’s Home”

Following his resignation from the papacy on Feb 11, 2013, Benedict XVI expressed a desire to reside in Mater Ecclesiae. After a brief stay in the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope Emeritus moved to the Monastery on May 2, 2013, where he dedicated himself to prayer, study and music until his death on Dec 31, 2022.

Four Memores Domini, lay consecrated persons assisted him until his passing, together with his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who continued to live in the Monastery until his transfer to his home diocese in Freiburg on Jul 1, 2022. – Vatican News