Friday, 27 May 2011

Pope 'shuts down irregular monastery in Rome'

famous monastery in Rome, Italian media reports say.

The Santa Croce in Gerusalemme church is being closed because of rumours of a lack of liturgical, financial and moral discipline, La Stampa reports.

It is understood the few remaining Cistercian monks will be transferred to other communities in Italy.

The basilica's abbot, a flamboyant former Milan fashion designer, was moved two years ago.

Il Messaggero reports that Simone Fioraso transformed the church, renovating its crumbling interior and opening a hotel, holding regular concerts, a televised bible-reading marathon and regularly attracting celebrity visitors with an unconventional approach.

One of the nuns at the monastery, Anna Nobili, a former lap-dancer, reportedly took part in dance performances with other nuns during religious ceremonies.

But the Vatican was reportedly not pleased by rumours that circulated about the behaviour of the monks.

"An inquiry found evidence of liturgical and financial irregularities as well as lifestyles that were probably not in keeping with that of a monk," Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, is reported as telling the Guardian newspaper.

An inquiry was carried out by the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life but has not yet been made public, La Stampa reports.

Santa Croce is one of Rome's oldest and most prestigious churches, and was built around a chapel dating back to the 4th Century.

It is one of the Italian capital's key places of pilgrimage as it is believed to house holy relics.

 'Lap-dancing nun' performs for Church'

Jesus is a God who dances, not one who stands still 

Anna Nobili is no ordinary nun.

The 38-year-old used to be a lap-dancer, and spent many years working in Italian nightclubs.

She is now using her talents in a rather different way - for what she calls "The Holy Dance" in a performance on Tuesday evening at the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Basilica in Rome, in front of senior Catholic clerics including Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican's Cultural Department.

Miss Nobili told the BBC World Service that the transformation from podium lap dancer to nun happened gradually.

"It was my mother who went about getting me involved in the faith - she had a powerful vision of Jesus," she says.

"At first I didn't want to know, but then Jesus appeared to me too, and I fell in love with him."
Jesus is a God who dances, not one who stands still

Sister Anna Nobili

Several years ago, she swapped her old life for the Church, after a visit to the shrine of St Francis in Assisi, a place of pilgrimage for millions of Catholics in Umbria.

Sister Nobili, then joined the order of nuns called the Working Lady Nuns of Nazareth House, and it is through them that she tours prisons and hospitals performing her modern Christian dance.

She says the Church is very open to what she does.

Sister Nobili says her dancing has changed since her lap-dancing days

"They understand that our hearts belong to Jesus, that means our moves also show that he is alive, and that he is a God of joy, not one of sadness," she explains.

"He is a God who dances not one who stands still."

Sister Nobili adds that it is for these reasons she has noticed that bishops, and priests in general, are struck by this new form of expression.

She does use some of her past life in her new shows, telling young people in the audience the story of how she converted.

Referring to the actual dancing she does today, with her group, the Jesus Dancers, Sister Nobili says it is different from what she did for her nightclub shows.

"My body has changed, so the way I dance has changed too." 

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