Cistercians Elect New Abbot General

Challenges Include Unification of Order

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ROME, SEPT. 13, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The abbot of Hauterive, Switzerland, Father Mauro Giuseppe Lepori, was elected abbot general of the Cistercian Order.



The election was held Sept. 2 during the order's general chapter of abbots, abbesses and delegates, who gathered in Rocca di Papa, near Rome.
 
Father Lepori succeeds Abbot Maur Esteva Alsina, who has been serving in that post from 1995 to the present and is resigning for reasons of age.
 
Born in Canobbio, Switzerland, in 1959, the new superior general of the Cistercians entered the Abbey of Hauterive in 1984. He made his first monastic vows in 1986 and his solemn profession in 1989.
 
Ordained a priest on June 10, 1990, Father Lepori served as master of novices until his election as abbot of Hauterive on May 16, 1994.
 
With a licentiate in philosophy and theology from the University of Fribourg, the priest became known for the publication of several articles and books translated into several languages, such as "Simon Called Peter."

Father Lepori also gives conferences, preaches retreats, and paints with watercolors.

Communion
 
As superior general, Father Lepori has the task of "guaranteeing the unity of the order and of making its visible communion more concrete, but also of breathing into it a 'spiritual breath,'" reported Cistercian Father Henri Marie Couette to the newspaper "Liberation."
 
In addition to the administrative work of the order, the new abbot general will have to work in the reunification of the two Cistercian branches, that of the "common observance," to which the abbey of Hauterive belongs, and that of "strict observance" (Trappists).
 
According to data of 2009, the Cistercian Order of "common observance" includes 122 houses and more than 1,900 monks and nuns in the world, whereas the Cistercian Order of "strict observance" has 175 houses and some 3,600 religious, including men and women.
 
In 1998, on the occasion of the 900th anniversary of the installation of Abbot Robert of Molesmes in Citeaux, in Burgundy, France, Pope John Paul II appealed for the reunification of the two Cistercian branches.
 
The new superior general will have another important challenge: the aging of the communities and the lack of vocations in Europe.
 
As is traditional, Father Lepori took office immediately and will now reside in Rome.