Ratzinger and Cassino, from the stay in the abbey to the visit as pope

Those who have lived it will hardly forget that tolling of the majestic abbey bells. It was 17.50 on 19 April 2005 when Monte Cassino announced to the Land of San Benedetto the election of the new pontiff, which took place seventeen days after the death of John Paul II. That announcement for the Territorial Diocese of Montecassino represented a lot: not only the election of a new Pope but the election of a Pope who had chosen to call himself Benedict.

A name that connected Pope Ratzinger great Dad, Benedict XV, opponent of the First World War but above all to San Benedetto, patron saint of Europe, founder of western monasticism. The relationship that united Benedict XVI to Montecassino was strong and long-standing. On the evening of the election, the monastic community did not wait even a minute to send a message to the new Pontiff.

It was the then abbot who transformed the emotions into words Dom Bernardo D’Onorio, who invited him to visit the Sacro Monte. Abbot Bernardo, that same evening, recalled Cardinal Ratzinger’s stay in Montecassino in February 2000. For a week he took refuge in Montecassino to write a few pages of his book “God and the World”. That hadn’t been the cardinal’s only visit to Montecassino. Several times Cardinal Josef had expressed his closeness to the Patron Saint of Europe, much venerated in Bavaria, his homeland, and to the Cassinese monastic community.

To remember an anecdote is Brunella del Foco, widow of Oreste Del Foco, historical doctor of Montecassino. «I remember perfectly a conference of Ratzinger in the Sala San Benedetto of the abbey. An event that failed to contain the large number of people. His presence attracted an exceptional audience, so much so that the great hall and the corridors registered full houses ».

On another occasion, Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated on the altar of the abbey basilica. Next to him the historical altar servers: Benedetto Carello, Massimo Potenza, Antonio Venuti and Benedetto Leone. Back in Rome, the future Pontiff sent Abbot Bernard a letter of praise for the service rendered by the four boys during the liturgical function. Last time in the abbey as pope.


On May 24, 2009, Ascension Day, the Holy Father Ratzinger arrived in Cassino and Montecassino at the invitation of Abbot Pietro Vittorelli. A day divided into several moments in which Benedict XVI reproposed to the world the spirituality of Saint Benedict, a lifestyle which for about 1500 years has been based on the ora et labora et lege. A visit that was a global event for the message launched to the Benedictine world, for the attention to the issues of work and young people, for the numbers of the organizational machine (lasting five months) and for the presence of the national and European political world, as well as to the financial, economic, journalistic and entertainment worlds present in Cassino.

On 24 May, for the first time in the history of the then Diocese of Montecassino, a pope celebrated an open-air mass in Cassino. In Piazza Miranda ten thousand people, under a scorching sun, attended mass. The second act of the day centered on the inauguration of the Casa della Carità, opened in a wing of the old hospital. A structure commissioned by Abbot Pietro to house the homeless. In the afternoon, then, the meeting with all the abbots and abbesses of the Benedictine Order who had come from all over the world. A meeting in the place that houses the remains of St. Benedict that Ratzinger wanted to hold to reaffirm to the world the importance of recovering Christian roots in Europe.


Ratzinger and Cassino, from the stay in the abbey to the visit as pope