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Monk entrepreneur opts for world

The resignation of a monk from his position as head brewer of his monastery in southern Germany has highlighted a conflict of conscience which is being experienced in hundreds of monasteries across the country.

The Tablet reports that 50 year old Fr Anselm Bilgri has become possibly the most famous living monk in Germany due to his work at the Andech Benedictine Monastery in Bavaria, where he has developed the brewery into a business worth $A34 million a year employing 200 people. The monk has also become a television celebrity, appearing regularly on programs where he expounds on business and management techniques.

So sought after were his opinions that he was offered the chance to move into management consultancy. He says he will now do so, having suffered, he says, from "increasing estrangement from the communal life of our monastery".

The alleged architect of Fr Anselm's departure is the 35-year-old Abbot of St Bonifaz, which administers Andech. Abbot Johannes Eckert is said to have become increasingly concerned at what he sees as his brother monk's distance from God.

The question of how much financial and commercial success monastic communities can absorb before they pay the price in reduced spiritual wealth is becoming a pressing one for Germany's monasteries and convents. They are increasingly having to turn to modern financial sources to pay the bills, finding that selling honey and cheese at the local market is not enough.

They also face a rising demand for short breaks in the spiritual environment of a monastic community. Germany's Conference of Religious says it received around 10,000 requests for brochures on retreats in 2003, while overnight stays at one monastery alone, Königsmünster Abbey, reached 23,000.

Fr Anselm Grün, who has published more than 100 management guide books, has showed how it is possible to set a limit to ex-monastic activities.

According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine, he has decided to take on only two speaking engagements a week, even though companies such as DaimlerChrysler are crying out for him to address them.

"One has to strike the right balance, otherwise there is the danger that one becomes self-employed," Fr Anselm said.

Monk entrepreneur opts for world (The Tablet 17/7/04)

Andechs Monastery

Archbishop sympathises with those facing ethical dilemmas in business (Independent Catholic News 16/7/04)

19 Jul 2004