London, May 26: Pope Benedict XVI has shut down a 1,500-year-old famous monastery in Rome that organized dances by a stripper-turned nun and hosted VIPs like Madonna.
Vatican officials have launched an inquiry following claims of ‘liturgical abuse’ at the monastery, after reports that the nuns were dancing around the altar during services.
Among them was sister Anna Nobili, 38, who became an overnight YouTube sensation after footage of the stripper-turned-nun preaching was posted on the Internet.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, which investigates allegations of misconduct in monasteries and convents, began their investigation after reports of the dancing nuns reached Pope Benedict.
The order of Cistercian monks is based in the monastery, which is in Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
It is one of the Catholic Church’s most popular shrines and contains relics from Christ’s Crucifixion.
In recent years, it has become the focal point for the ‘Friends of Santa Croce’, an aristocratic group who have attracted criticism for their unorthodox interpretation of religion – including the dancing nuns – although they were not part of the order.
“The decision to investigate the monastery was launched after reports were received of what was going on there – we need to remember this is a holy shrine containing relics of Christ,” the Daily Mail quoted a Vatican source as saying.
“It was evident that the order had lapsed in its discipline and an Apostolic visitation was arranged, which resulted in the decision to close the monastery which was approved by Pope Benedict,” he added.
It is not the first time the monastery has been the subject of controversy.
Two years ago the abbot there, Fr Simone Fioraso, a flamboyant former designer, was removed following allegations of homosexuality.
The Basilica, one of the famous seven pilgrim churches of Rome and built in 325AD, contains relics thought to be from Christ’s Crucifixion including soil from around the site where he died and fragments of the cross.
Three years ago, Madonna visited the basilica and spent more than an hour there on a guided tour of the relics after being secretly smuggled in through a side door.
The order has been at the basilica for more than 1500 years and the monks and nuns there have now been moved to other monasteries and convents across Italy.
Vatican spokesman Fr Ciro Benedetti confirmed that the monastery had closed. (ANI)