New Vatican document, 'Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago' details the role of consecrated virgins

In 1970, Pope Paul VI had restored the Order of Virgins, which lately was reproposed by Vatican in a new document named Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago. At a press conference held yesterday, the new document was released by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.

The document was presented by H.E. Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, the prefect of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. Presenting the document, he briefly narrated the history of the ancient order, that is the Order of Virgins. He said:

“Consecrated virgins are the image of the Church, bride of Christ”: thus the decree of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship which, by the mandate of Blessed Paul VI, promulgated the new Rite of Consecration for virgins, presented consecrated women in the Ordo virginum. It was 31 May 1970. As occurred in the apostolic communities and in the patristic age, after centuries the possibility of receiving this consecration was granted also to women who remain in their own ordinary life context, and was therefore no longer reserved to nuns.

The instruction Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, which the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life present today, returns to that definition. After the liturgical rite and the norms contained therein, the Instruction is the first document of the Apostolic See that examines the features and the discipline of this form of life.

In two years’ time, in 2020, the restored Rite will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary: over the past half century, with the rediscovery of the particular Church, this peculiar female vocation has been known and loved all over the world. Consecrated virgins are present in all the continents, in very numerous dioceses, and offer their own witness of life in every area of society and of the Church. In 2016, during the Year of Consecrated Life, an approximate statistic estimated by default the presence of over five thousand consecrated virgins in the world, in continuous growth.

The Instruction on the Ordo virginum intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and virgins consecrated in recent years have presented to the Congregation for Consecrated Life about the vocation and witness of the Ordo virginum and its presence in the universal Church and, in particular, on vocational formation and discernment.

Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago is intended to help discover the beauty of this vocation, and to help show the beauty of the Lord Who transfigures the life of so many women who experience it every day.

Today I express my hope of organizing and seeing the consecrated virgins of the whole world gather in Rome for a new international meeting in 2020, to celebrate with Peter the fiftieth anniversary of the Rite.”

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