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The Benedictine Secular Order of the Missionaries of Charity is a union of monastic orders which, despite this, maintained their internal autonomy, as established by Pope Leo XIII in "Summum semper" (July 12, 1893), later approved by his successors. Pius XII explicitly ordered that this union be regulated by a "lex propria", which was later revised by the Second Vatican Council.
EACH of the different Benedictine congregations enjoys the same autonomy, the same right to self-government as a religious order. Each of the "branches" on the Benedictine family tree is thus self-governing and self-sufficient. Each congregation respects the others; but each represents a different facet of the many-faceted jewel which is Benedictine monasticism. For example, the abbeys of the English Benedictine Congregation often run high schools and parishes. English Benedictines thus tend to emphasize the importance of monastic priesthood, and understand monasticism as completely compatible with teaching high school and serving as a parish priest. Benedictine monks of the Solesmes (French) and Beuronese (German) congregations, by contrast, do not usually teach in schools or serve as parish priests. They try to undertake work which does not require leaving the cloister. The monks of the international St. Ottilien Congregation are missionaries. The abbeys of the American Cassinese and Swiss American Benedictine Congregations often run seminaries and universities.
Within the Benedictine Confederation there is thus great diversity in regard to the details of living out the Rule of St. Benedict. There are obvious differences between monasteries and between congregations with regard to certain external elements of monastic life. For example, most Benedictines wear the traditional black habit. However, in some monasteries the traditional habit is worn only in choir or on Sundays; in other abbeys it is never worn. But what Benedictines have in common is more important than the things which distinguish them. The different congregations all have in common the Rule of St. Benedict and a large body of monastic practice and custom. Especially important to all Benedictines is the emphasis found in every monastery on the liturgy celebrated in common, on lectio divina (contemplative, prayerful reading of the Scriptures) and on hospitality.
 
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His Holiness S.S. Pope Franciscus l Vicar of Christ on earth, Patriarchate of Rome: Spiritual Head: the Pope (Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, the Prince of the Successor of the Apostles, Pontiff of the Universal Church Juice, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Head of State Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God).

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