BY FREDbY GRAY
THE DISTINGUISHED historian Dom Aidan Bellenger has been elected abbot of a Benedictine monastery in Somerset.
Fr Bellenger, 56, replaces Fr Richard Yeo, who served as Abbot of Downside for eight years.
On Tuesday Fr Bellinger outlined his vision for Downside in the future. "The abbot's job is to bring things old and new," he said.
"A monastic community is a sign of hope in a world that lacks stability, a place where Christianity can be lived and where the Church is not relegated to the heritage industry or turned into a theme park."
Dom Antony Sutch, former headmaster of Downside school, described the new abbot as "an excellent man". He said: "We are delighted. He has the intellectual and spiritual abilities to face the challenges of the future."
The new abbot arrived at Downside as a history teacher for the school rather than to serve as a monk. Yet in 1982 he became a novice. He has
already served as headmaster of the school, from 1991 to 1995.. His last post was that of prior of the monastery.
His doctorate at Cambridge focused on exiled clergy during the French revolution. He was taught by the historian and television presenter Simon Schama. Fr Bellenger is an expert on English recusants and has written books about cardinals and the archbishops of Canterbury.
The election was held in accordance with the rules for English Benedictine monasteries, which stipulate that a new abbot is chosen every eight years.
Fr Yeo remains president of the English Benedictine Congregation. In a joint statement the community thanked the outgoing abbot for his work.
"I We are] united in admiration for all that Abbot Richard has achieved in his eight years as Abbot of Downside and deeply grateful for the leadership he has given both in the many areas of our responsibility and in the life of the liturgy and prayer."