«Having examined the request of the Rector of the sanctuary of Castelmonte of 04/19/1990, with which he asks me to approve the statute of the ancient «Universal Confraternity of Our Lady of Castelmonte», having seen cann. 312 and following of the Code of Canon Law, with this decree we recognize the «Universal Confraternity of Our Lady of Castelmonte» and approve its attached statute. Pursuant to art. 3 of the statute we confirm the moderator of the Confraternity in the person of the P. Rector of the sanctuary.
In the lively trust that the Confraternity will favor Marian piety and promote the objectives it has set itself since its inception, I greet and bless".
Given in Udine on 25 April 1990, feast of St. Mark ev.
† Alfredo Battisti archbishop
The "Universal Confraternity of Our Lady of Castelmonte" (= CUMC) is very old. It was founded around 1480: immediately after the reconstruction of the sanctuary - which lasted ten years (1469-1479) - it was destroyed by fire. The foundation is due to the zeal of the priest Michele Zelmkih, curate of Castelmonte. The original name was «Fraterna di Santa Maria del Monte». We still have a precious handwritten register of it, bound in tables, covered in leather, with metal edges at the four corners, preserved in the chapter archive of Cividale. There is the list of the first members, mainly faithful from the villages surrounding the sanctuary; but there is no shortage of devotees from Cividale, Cormons, Gemona and other towns in Friuli. The CUMC had its own house in the village, where the leaders of the association periodically met. A fire destroyed it in 1785, together with the nearby house of the «Fraterna del SS. Sacramento», built a few decades after that of «Santa Maria del Monte». In their place, the current building was immediately erected for use as the "Casa del Pellegrino", on which in 1825 two plaques with the inscription "Casa di S. Maria" were fixed. In the history of the sanctuary of Castelmonte there is also a third Confraternity, that of the "Immaculate Conception", erected on December 8, 1859. Officially, the three Confraternities were never suppressed; in fact, however, only the CUMC is still alive.
The «Fraterna di S. Maria del Monte» had an essentially religious character. It committed the associates to a Christian life, supported by a strong devotion-imitation of the examples and virtues of the Mother of God. Furthermore, the members committed themselves to concrete gestures of charity, the first of which was to support the decorum of the sanctuary and its works. To this Confraternity, among other things, we owe the construction of the small cemetery next to the sanctuary which was blessed in 1501. The diffusion of knowledge of the sanctuary and the fact that the supreme popes Sixtus IV, Benedict XIV, Pius VII, Pius VIII and Pius IX wanted to enrich it with special indulgences and spiritual favors for the benefit of associates and pilgrims. Still thanks to her, the sanctuary of Castelmonte was aggregated and incorporated in 1748 with all the privileges granted to the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome. Alongside the benefit of indulgences, the associates enjoyed a certain number of SS. Masses celebrated for them at the altar of the Blessed Virgin. The death of members of the Confraternity did not interrupt their membership or their right to benefit from particular suffrages.
With the arrival of the Capuchin Friars to the custody of the sanctuary of Castelmonte in September 1913, the «Fraterna di S. Maria del Monte» resumed vigor and vitality. The name was updated to that of "Universal Confraternity of Our Lady of Castelmonte", the number of members increased, and the Confraternity spread throughout the world wherever there was a devotee of Our Lady of Castelmonte. P. Eleuterio da Rovigo, the first Capuchin custodian of the sanctuary, created a bulletin in November 1914, which was the link between Castelmonte and the members of the Confraternity. A minimum membership fee was also established, which would allow even the poorest to be able to enjoy the spiritual benefits of the Confraternity and above all to be able to receive the bulletin. One, however, could still pay the membership fee, refusing to receive the periodical, and still remain a member of the Confraternity, thus contributing to the good of the sanctuary and its own.
Zealers and zealers
A particular word deserves this category of people, born since the foundation of the bulletin. The zealots not only subscribe to the CUMC, but they spread it, making both the Madonna of Castelmonte and the bulletin known. The work, which is done for free, is a true form of apostolate. This consists in gathering a group of at least five people (there are zealots with over one hundred associates), eager to receive the bulletin. Every month the zealer delivers the periodical to the families and, once a year, collects the membership fee from his members.