by Jay Chin
After more than a year without an abbot, Pope Francis appointed Donato Ogliari as Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino. Along with this installment, the Pope announced that a large amount of this territorial abbey would become part of the local Diocese of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, under the overview of Bishop Gerardo Antonazzo. This diocese will grow about 50% in size, both in terms of territory and members, and will be renamed Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo.
The Abbey of Montecassino is the mother abbey of the Order of St. Benedict, built by the founder himself in the 6th century. The Abbey has enjoyed the status of territorial abbey since at least
the 8th century when the surrounding lands were donated to it. Because of its position on a hilltop and its proximity to Rome, it has been subject to numerous attacks throughout history, the most
famous being the Battle of Montecassino that took place during World War II. (This battle completely decimated the monastery and afterward it had to be rebuilt.) Pope Paul VI wrote the Motu
proprio “Catholica Ecclesia” in 1976, stating that territorial monasteries would no longer be established and that those extant would be reorganized with other ecclesial territories as is needed.
The reasoning for this Motu proprio stems from a Hierarchy’s concern that the monastic community would not be able to faithfully live out its charism it if had a vast number of faithful and
parishes to attend pastorally. All 53 parishes, 37 priests, and 50 women religious will no longer be under the territorial abbey, leaving it with its religious community, under the direction of
The Diocese of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo was erected in the 3rd century as the Diocese of Sora. In the early 19th century, under Pope Pius VII, two territories were united to it, now under the name of the Diocese of Aquino, Sora, e Pontecorvo. In 1896, the name was “shortened” to Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo. Before the recently added parishes, the diocese oversaw the operations of 91 parishes and 151,000 Catholics.
Before being transferred to Montecassino, Abbot Donato Ogliari was Abbot of Santa Maria della Scala monastery since 2006. He was professed as a member of the Consolata Missionaries in 1978 at the age of 21. He was ordained a priest four years later. His final profession came in 1992. His predecessor, Abbot Pietro Vitorelli, only one year older than Abbot Ogliari, resigned in 2013 after little more than five years as Abbot due to his failing health, Pope Francis accepting his resignation is conformity with Canon 401.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”
Bishop Antonazzo, appointed bishop in January of 2013, greeted the new members of his diocese, saying “To the entire diocesan community of Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo I extend my cordial greetings and I entrust my deep trepidation of soul,”